Bird deaths by electrocution

To: "" <>
Subject: Bird deaths by electrocution
From: "Baxter, Chris (DEH)" <>
Date: Fri, 9 Mar 2001 15:01:59 +1030
Howdy All

Just a short note to let you all know of a bizarre and rather sad happening
with birds in in Port Augusta, South Australia (tip of Spencer Gulf) last
week. A fellow came in to the front counter at work (National Parks and
Wildlife) complaining about birds being electrocuted next door to the old
folks home he was living in. He described to me how birds feeding on
blossoms in a gum tree growing up through the powerlines were being zapped
as they earthed out on the powerline. He had with him a dead Spiny-cheeked
H/eater with its beak missing. It had unfortunately been burnt off back to
the base!

I went around to the locality and found that it was a Red-capped Gum (Euc.
erythrocorys) with a profusion of large yellow flowers all over it. It was a
popular attraction to an assortment of birds with S. cheeked, Singing and
White-plumed H/eaters, House Sparrows and Starlings being in the tree on my
arrival. I was horrified to find the large number of dead birds which
littered the ground below two of these trees growing side by side on the
nature strip.

The death toll was as follows:  Spiny-cheeked H/eater   5 
                                Singing H/eater                 6
                                White-plumed H/eater    4
                                Starling                        1
                                House Sparrow           2

I immediately saw the local council and they arranged for the trees to be
pruned back the same arvo. There were other like trees in flower growing up
through power lines and these were also checked fro dead birds but none were

The dead birds must have been unfortunate enough to earth themselves out by
coming into contact with the tree and the power line at the same time. I
just wonder if there is more to this event than just that. There are quite a
lot of street trees growing up through the power lines in Port Augusta
(pruning regime commences in April after a three year break) which must have
birds feeding in them quite consistently (nectar, insects etc). I have not
known of an awful scenario like the present one happening in the past. Has
anybody else? Maybe others can speculate on this further. Perhaps it has
something to do with the birds having their beaks in moisture (nectar) when
touching the wire which helps to facilitate the electrocution??

Anyway, enough said on this sad subject for now. I just hope it does not
happen again.


Chris Baxter 
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