Birds and power lines do not work well together. Especially when power lines are situated adjacent wetlands.

An aerial power line inspection team is installing bird diverters along a transmission line just north of Billings, Montana in order to prevent the deaths of thousands of birds.

The line crosses a 3,000-acre wetland, which attracts as many as 100,000 waterfowl and shore birds. The birds have trouble seeing two of the wires on the line that are used to divert lightning strikes.

Haverfield Aviation has been hired to install FireFly I fixed bird diverters, which are plastic reflectors with blocks of orange, green and phosphorescent material that glows in the dark. The reflectors are attached to a spring-loaded device that clamps onto the transmission line and are spaced about 60 feet apart, allowing the birds to better see the power line and avoid flying into it.

The power line was installed in the late 1970s, around the time that birds started to die off from the bacterial disease botulism and from striking the line. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials picked up 65,000 dead birds from 55 species during that time.

Agency officials theorized that the botulism outbreak may have been caused by birds hitting the lines, falling into the water and dying. The dead birds provided the botulism bacteria with a protein source that let it flourish. Maggots that fed on the dead birds and were eaten by live birds helped spread the outbreak. (Read More)

State officials noted that bird deaths are climbing once again, leading the department to work with NorthWestern Energy, which owns the line.

To see a video clip of workers installing the diverters, visit this link.

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