Power lines pose potential hazards to Trumpeter Swans. These hazards can be significantly reduced through use of bird diverters, devices attached to power lines to make them more visible. There are several varieties of diverters on the market and in recent years they have been improved to withstand higher wind levels.
Skagit County, Washington is home to the largest wintering concentration of Trumpeter Swans in the United States. Here Puget Sound Energy has an active Aviation Protection Program through which they respond to an average of 200-250 bird-related incidents a year. In recent months, they have helped pay expenses for swans needing rehabilitation after injuries from power line collisions, and have installed additional diverters in areas in problem areas. Two successful releases of injured birds in recent months have been featured in the media, bringing attention to the problem of power line collisions for large birds.
In Minnesota, Xcel Energy of Minneapolis plans to install nearly 3400 swan flight diverters over the next four – five years in Minnesota and Wisconsin. The diverters are highly visible yellow plastic spirals. Xcel Energy uses a helicopter to aid installation. Nine different transmission lines will receive the diverters which have proven effective in reducing bird collisions. Wetland areas, migration patterns and known nesting areas were considered when choosing top priority lines.
Efforts are underway to keep a portion of Greater Yellowstone’s wintering Trumpeter Swans out of harm’s way. The Teton Regional Land Trust (TRLT) is working with the Fall River Rural Electric Cooperative (FRREC) on the west side of Yellowstone are at work to add or replace at least 120 bird diverters on power lines in areas frequented by Trumpeter Swans. This program began in 2004 and this year priority sites in Swan Valley are the Teton River, Rainey Creek, and the Teton Slough area adjacent to the Henry’s Fork River south of Rexburg.
Power lines are a significant cause of mortality for Trumpeter Swans, heavy-bodied birds that need plenty of room for takeoff and landing. Wintering, migrating, and nesting birds can be at risk. Use of power line bird diverters is an idea that The Trumpeter Swan Society hopes will spread! Consider contacting your local power company and encourage them to help protect the swans, waterfowl and raptors of your region.