Bird Power

The towers that support electric power lines improve bird diversity on farms, European scientists have found.

Power lines aren’t generally considered wildlife-friendly, since birds can crash into them or get electrocuted. But some birds, such as storks, have adopted the supporting towers — also called pylons — as nesting sites. “[P]aradoxically, in intensive farmland widespread across Europe, electricity pylons and especially the small patches of habitat at their base may benefit bird species,” the study authors write in Conservation Letters.

The team counted birds at 91 plots on farms in Poland. At each site, the researchers studied birds at a pylon base and 200 meters or more away from the pylon. They also noted whether the patch under the pylon contained grass, shrubs and trees, or a mixture.

The spots under pylons hosted 34 species of birds, while nearby open fields hosted only 22 species, the authors report. The number of birds at the pylons was also higher than the number in the fields.

Birds are probably attracted to the grass and shrubs at the bases of the towers, the authors say. Farmers could support the birds by expanding the wild habitat patches around pylons. Roberta Kwok | 27 March 2013

Source: Tryjanowski, P. et al. 2013. A paradox for conservation: electricity pylons may benefit avian diversity in intensive farmland. Conservation Letters doi: 10.1111/conl.12022.

Image © WDG Photo |