A large-scale experiment demonstrates that line marking reduces power line collision mortality for large terrestrial birds, but not bustards, in the Karoo, South Africa

Jessica Shaw, Tim Reid, Bradley Gibbons, Matt Pretorius, Andrew Jenkins, Ronelle Visagie, Michael Michael, Peter Ryan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Line markers are widely used to mitigate bird collisions with power lines, but few studies have robustly tested their efficacy. Power line collisions are an escalating problem for several threatened bird species endemic to southern Africa, so it is critical to know whether or not marking works to adequately manage this problem. Over 8 yr, a large-scale experiment was set up on 72 of 117 km of monitored transmission power lines in the eastern Karoo, South Africa, to assess whether line markers reduce bird collision mortality, particularly for Blue Cranes (Grus paradisea) and Ludwig’s Bustards (Neotis ludwigii). We tested the 2 marking devices commonly used in South Africa: bird flappers and static bird flight diverters. Using a before-after-control-impact design, we show that line marking reduced collision rates for Blue Cranes by 92% (95% confidence interval [CI]: 77–97%) and all large birds by 51% (95% CI: 23–68%), but had no effect on bustards. Both marker types appeared similarly effective. Given that monitoring at this site also confirmed high levels of mortality of a range of species of conservation concern, we recommend that marking be widely installed on new power lines. However, other options need to be explored urgently to reduce collision mortality of bustards. Five bustard species were in the top 10 list of most frequently found carcasses, and high collision rates of Ludwig’s Bustards (0.68 birds km–1 yr–1 uncorrected for survey biases) add to wider concerns about population-level effects for this range-restricted and Endangered species.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberduaa067
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalCondor
Volume123
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2021

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