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Pest Bird Control for the Transmission & Distribution Industry | Bird•B•Gone Blog

Bird on a Wire

Bird control in the Transmission and Distribution industry
by Alex A. Kecskes

pest birdsPest birds cause more power system outages worldwide than any other animal. When they land, poop and nest in areas vital to the transmission and distribution of electrical power, the resultant outages can be costly to both utility companies and customers. Electrical lines are ideal bird perches that combine observation and safety. Substations are attractive nesting places that invite birds to take up home. Birds such as red-tailed hawks, pigeons, sparrows, flickers and starlings will often inhabit large stations. The damage they cause usually falls in one of two categories: “Bird Strikes” and bird poop.

Bird Strikes occur when birds contact or “bridge” energized equipment with their bodies or wings. The repair or replacement costs to utility companies can range from $500 to more than $140,000 per outage. Customers suffer during these repair outages in the form of lost time and sales, damage to perishables, even property damage.

Besides the costs and damages resulting from direct Bird Strikes, the accumulation of bird poop on substation equipment and structures can also pose a huge problem. Bird poop is very acidic and can corrode materials and equipment. It can also be conductive under certain conditions and can cause system outages. Sending out crews to clean and repair the damage caused by the build-up of bird poop can be very costly. It’s often necessary to take systems off line for cleaning and repair. In addition, bird deposits can carry and transmit any of 60 known diseases, which can pose an additional safety hazard to maintenance crews.

Keeping pest birds away from substations and utility poles often calls for an integrated bird-control system. One that includes bird spikes, sound and mist deterrents, and various other means.

For starters, bird spikes can keep pest birds from landing on the cross arms of power poles, substations and other flat surfaces. Non-conductive, U.V.-protected plastic spikes provide an economical solution that’s easy to install. Spikes like these have been used successfully all over the United States and the world to keep birds from landing on utility poles and inadvertently causing outages. They’re also ideal for rural utility poles because they require virtually no maintenance.

Another effective pest bird deterrent, sound-activated systems, usually deliver distress and predator calls for nearly a dozen or more bird species. The calls play for several minutes with a time break to prevent birds from becoming accustomed to any one sound. The birds hear the distress or predator calls and seek other, safer areas to land and nest.

Dovetailing this bird deterrent technology with misting systems can be extremely effective. Misting systems typically use a food-grade, non-lethal aerosol fog formulation of methyl anthranilate approved by the Environmental Protection Agency. The mist irritates pest birds and deters them as they fly. Misting systems usually have a control center with multiple remote spray units to cover areas up to one square mile. Electrical and chemical tests conducted by PG&E in Northern California demonstrated that multiple mist applications did not jeopardize the integrity of equipment.

Non-conductive bird netting is another good bird repellant. Some manufacturers offer netting that is U.V. stabilized, flame resistant, and rot and waterproof—ideal for low maintenance outdoor applications. Netting is available in a variety of mesh sizes to discourage a wide range of birds—sparrows, starlings, pigeons, seagulls and even larger birds.


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