The Danube river in the western part of Bulgaria, on the Via Aristoteles bird migration route, is one of Europe’s most important areas for the conservation of priority bird species listed in the Birds Directive. However, bird populations in Natura 2000 network sites in this area are under pressure due to nearby urban and industrial centres, transport corridors, and, in particular, hundreds of kilometres of encircling bird-unsafe overhead (20 kV) power lines. On one hand, power lines are used for perching, hunting, and even nesting (e.g. white stork and European roller). On the other hand, the same power lines cause the death or severe injury of a large number of resident and migratory birds through electrocution and collisions. The LIFE for Safe Grid (LIFE12 NAT/BG/000572) project found electrocution and collisions accounted for 76.4% and 23.6%, respectively, of registered mortalities around 20kV power distribution lines. International, European and national action plans for Dalmatian pelican, great bittern, European roller, Saker falcon, and priority species of geese, vulture and eagle have identified electrocution and collisions as significant factors causing high mortality. There is a need for targeted studies on the effects of power lines on priority bird species, and the large-scale implementation of measures to insulate power lines.
The LIFE BIRDS on POWER LINES project’s long-term aim is to protect the breeding, wintering and migrating populations of threatened bird species by reducing mortality caused by electrical infrastructure. The project’s target species are among the most adversely affected species, and are all listed in Annex I of the Birds Directive.
The project will contribute to its long-term aim by: Identifying the medium-voltage power lines posing the most serious hazard for wild birds inside and in the immediate proximity of key Natura 2000 network sites in Western Bulgaria; Halting unnatural mortality among birds caused by electrocution on hazardous electricity pylons in priority areas of the project’s Natura 2000 network sites and in key corridors between theses sites; Reducing unnatural mortality among birds caused by collisions with overhead power lines in these areas;Securing safe nesting sites for the white stork population in Western Bulgaria; Increasing the capacity for solving conflicts between birds and electricity distribution infrastructure across Bulgaria; and Boosting public and stakeholder support to help solve the conflict between wild birds and overhead power lines, and by promoting mutual benefits for both biodiversity and local people.
Expected results: Identification of the medium-voltage power lines inside and in immediate proximity to key Natura 2000 network sites in Western Bulgaria posing the most serious hazard for wild birds (including all the project’s target species), by establishing a GIS database, mapping areas of potential conflict, and producing a detailed report;Halt to unnatural mortality among wild birds caused by electrocution on hazardous electricity pylons in priority areas in Natura 2000 network sites and in key corridors between them, with the retrofitting of 4 000 pin-type pylons, 1 200 metal frame type pylons and 200 switch towers;Reduced unnatural mortality among wild birds caused by collision with overhead power lines in priority areas in Natura 2000 network sites and in key corridors between them, with 120 km of aerial conductors (40 km of triple power lines) in priority areas marked with ‘bird diverters’ to reduce bird-collisions by 90%;Secured safe nesting sites for the white stork population in Western Bulgaria: 900 white stork nesting platforms installed on electric pylons and no cases of electrocution of storks or burnt nests recorded;Increased capacity for solving conflicts between wild birds and overhead power lines across Bulgaria, through development of bird-safe pylon standards for Bulgaria, the development and installation of 40 prototype pylons (20 pin-type and 20 metal frame type), and no electrocuted birds recorded under these prototype pylons; Guidelines with best practices for Bulgaria and abroad, and specialised information materials, produced and distributed among key stakeholders; andIncreased public and stakeholder support to help solve the conflict between wild birds and overhead power lines, and mutual benefits promoted for biodiversity and citizens, through 25 information boards, a white stork publicity campaign and various dissemination materials.