Fake Geese, Drones, and Glow-in-the-Dark Markers: How EWEB Protects Birds from Powerlines  06/24/2022

When EWEB began receiving reports of Canada Geese refusing to leave our powerline poles in the McKenzie Valley, EWEB Environmental Specialist Andrew Janos knew his Osprey Protection Program was a success.  

 The fake geese are meant to prevent Osprey from setting up nests on cross arms – but in this case, they tricked some people, too! 

“If you have ever had an angry Canada Goose charge you, you’ll know how fearless and determined they can be, and bullying Osprey out of their nests is quite common,” Janos said, explaining his goose decoy program. “Due to the fact that they typically nest before Osprey (in February vs. March-April), they often beat to the Osprey to their own nests and lay eggs in them. Based on this observed blatant intimidation, utilities have been putting up decoys for a while as a general deterrent to nesting Ospreys/raptors.”  

EWEB has constructed Osprey nesting platforms throughout the McKenzie Valley, but sometimes Osprey try to build a nest on top of cross arms. If allowed, the sticks and debris can create a fire hazard and cause power outages – and puts the birds at risk. 

“There are official perch/nesting deterrents on the market, but why not use something that is biologically recognizable to the birds and a conversation piece?” Janos said. 

The goose decoys are just one of the many ways EWEB works to protect migrating birds and waterfowl. Last summer, EWEB installed brightly-colored markers on powerlines over water crossings to help birds see the powerlines and avoid flying into them. 

Installing these bird flight diverters is part of EWEB’s greater environmental mitigation requirements for relicensing the Carmen-Smith Hydroelectric Project, along with other fisheries and wildlife. EWEB worked with biologist JD Dwyer to install approximately 140 markers across 8 water crossings. 

Dwyer used a drone to attach the markers. This new method is both more cost-effective and safer than installing them by helicopter, which is how they're usually installed. 

In his graduate research, Dwyer helped develop this drone deployment method, along with other avian avoidance systems.  

“We have flown drones all across the country. We’ve done it in about 4 or 5 states,” he said. “It is very rewarding, because as biologists, so often we’re just monitoring something dying. So it is nice to be able to have an actual, real impact.” 

Along with preventing bird collisions, EWEB is improving the Carmen-Smith Hydroelectric Project area by establishing fish passage for endangered bull trout and Chinook salmon, and building an improved spawning channel for salmonids. 

“It's important to know for EWEB customers and ratepayers that this is one of the several examples of EWEB’s environmental commitment to protecting both wildlife and fisheries within our service area,” Janos said.