10 February 2017

Dozens of Geese Die at NPPD Powerline

On February 2, 2017 it became known that dozens of Snow Geese had collided with a 345 KV Nebraska Public Power District powerline near Edgar, southern Nebraska. Details were provided by Robert Harms, a biologist of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, that graciously provided details of this occurrence of wildbirds hitting a significant, industrial powerline. His comments became available via email, and he indicated that his comments could be presented to the public.

"The NPPD notified us by telephone that about 30 snow geese had collided with the 345 kV power line near Edgar, Nebraska on February 2, 2017. Apparently, the collisions occurred on February 1, 2017—the day before. I met with a NPPD biologist to inspect the site on the afternoon of February 2, 2017. The purpose of the site inspection was to determine how and why the collisions occurred and recommend modifications to the existing line (i.e., installation of bird flight diverters (BFDs)) to prevent the same situation from occurring in the future.

"A total of 95 dead snow geese and a few Ross’s geese were found under the power line in an overgrazed pasture. This likely underestimates the true number of birds that collided with NPPD’s power line. We have unconfirmed reports of injured birds that could no longer fly in the area but we did not find any during the site inspection. It’s likely that there were birds that collided with the line and could still fly, but died elsewhere. The birds laid dead under the line overnight—it’s possible that carcasses were carried off by coyotes and consumed elsewhere. All told — probably well over 100 birds died at this site due to collision with NPPD’s 345kV power line.

"An initial reaction during the site inspection was that the snow and Ross’s geese had been shot at as they fed in the cornfield, flushed, and then collided with the line. There were no signs of birds being shot—some dead birds had missing wings and heads and many had serrated stomach tissue and exposed entrails—this is not an indication of gunshots, but of collision. Additionally, I spoke with the landowner who indicated that she had heard no gunshots. I spent some time at the site to determine the circumstances that led to this large collision. The Edgar city sewage lagoon is located approximately 0.25-mile west and cornfield is located to the north. The wind was out of the northeast on February 1. In my mind, the most likely explanation is that a large flock of snow and Ross’s geese were roosting overnight on the sewage lagoon and departed early in the morning well before daylight as snow and Ross’s geese often do. As they departed, they flew into the wind (northeast) and collided with NPPD’s 345kV power line which is located about 0.25-mile east of the lagoons. The collisions likely occurred in low light conditions.

"I would characterize the area as intensive row crop irrigated agriculture with a few rainwater basin wetlands present; these are located west and north of Edgar. This general area of Nebraska experienced severe drought last fall—few rainwater basins held water then. Most of the basins are still dry—those with water have it because of an ice storm, then above normal temperatures in the area which resulted in melting and runoff with little infiltration over frozen ground about 3 weeks ago. All in all, the general area where the collision site is not the best habitat for migratory birds—it is likely that the sewage lagoon was only being used by the snow geese because it represents what little water is available at this time of year in this area given the drought situation.

"After discussion at the site, NPPD tentatively agreed to install bird flight diverters (BFD) on an approximately 1-mile long segment of the existing 345 kV line to minimize the risk of avian collisions in the future. This includes the segment of the power line that crosses immediately north of the sewage lagoon area. NPPD also agreed to install BFDs on a privately-owned rainwater basin wetland located approximately two miles west of Edgar."

Edgar is located in Clay county, Nebraska. The sewage lagoon is northeast of the town.

the industrial powerline where these geese died, is similar in features for the proposed powerline known was the R-Project, which is being proposed by NPPD across a vast swath of the sandhills.