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A most nest-essary electrical operation

West Australians are fortunate to live in a State that is home to beautiful native flora and fauna, but it does take careful management. Horizon Power’s Carnarvon crew learned this recently when faced with a fowl problem.

While conducting a routine inspection of our power poles and lines, the crew noticed a significant amount of bird activity on the power line feeding Rio Tinto’s Dampier Salt Mine at Lake Macleod. The crew called in a specialist bird consultant from the Ornithological Technical Services to get a bird’s eye view of the issue.

The Ornithological Technical Services conducted a survey and found a very high population of Nankeen Kestrels using the power poles for nesting. They found around two nests on each kilometre of the 46.5 kilometre stretch of power line.

It’s understood many of the nests were built and originally roosted in by crows, but as the crows left at the end of their breeding season the Nankeen Kestrels moved in. Rather than building their own nests, Kestrels typically use structures already available such as tree hollows, or in this case, disused nests.

This is a precarious place for birds to roost – as they fly in and out of their nests they can strike live wires, leading to injury or death. This also short circuits the power supply which leads to outages.

Horizon Power’s Retail and Community Manager in Carnarvon Craig Deetlefs, said a solution was needed that ensured the safety of the birds and a reliable supply of electricity for customers.

“We needed a solution that didn’t involve trapping or harming any wildlife, so once the breeding season was over we undertook the delicate operation of removing all of the nests,” Mr Deetlefs said.

“We plan to add infrastructure to the top of the power poles to minimise the possibility of birds building nests there again.”

“This will reduce risk to the birds as well as the surrounding area’s power supply.”

The Nankeen Kestrel is a small falcon that is found across most of Australia. They predominantly eat insects, but will also take small mammals, birds and lizards. They tend to prefer open habitat that is not densely vegetated. While they are typically seen in pairs or alone, they can exist in loose flocks of up to 30 birds.

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