Chicago’s proximity to Lake Michigan makes the city part of the Mississippi Flyway, an avian migratory path from northwest Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. Each fall, an estimated seven million birds pass through Chicago on their way to warmer winter homes.
ComEd is committed to providing safe and reliable electric service to all its customers, which is why the utility is doing its part to develop preventative measures to safeguard birds, making Chicago a safer and more comfortable habitat for all its residents.
During migration, birds must avoid many potential threats, including vehicles, predators, pesticides, and even “invisible” power lines. While buildings are more lethal to birds than every other cause of death combined, according to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the organization estimates 5 to 15 percent of all power outages can be attributed to bird collisions with power lines. Birds’ limited ability to judge distance makes power lines especially difficult to see. Some weather conditions, like fog, rain, snow, or darkness, may make the lines even less noticeable to birds.
Pelican Protection Plan
Large birds, like pelicans, are particularly vulnerable to power line collisions because they are not always quick enough to change their direction of flight before it is too late. In mid-October, ComEd engineers in the Dixon, Illinois area noticed an increase in the number of outages caused by pelican collisions with power lines as the birds head south for winter. In just one week, ComEd engineers used existing technology and innovative engineering to solve a unique reliability issue in an environmentally friendly way by installing more than 20 bird diverter devices on distribution lines. The spiral- or disc-shaped devices make power lines more visible to birds and help them avoid contact with the lines. Since these devices were installed, there have been no sightings or reports of injured pelicans.
American Kestrel Bird Box Donation
ComEd’s west region distribution engineers and Environmental Services Department partnered in mid-October to construct nesting boxes for American Kestrels, a small falcon found throughout the Americas. The ComEd team hosted an outdoor environmental work day-one of many in 2008-to build and install eight boxes at the Boone County Conservation District. The team also partnered with local Boy Scout Troop 141 to construct additional nesting boxes for American Kestrels and other birds. Later this year, a dozen boxes will be donated to Chicago’s Department of the Environment for installation in Chicago natural areas.
Wood Duck Habitat Rehabilitation
ComEd’s team of northwest regional engineers have been working to support the repopulation of the wood duck by building nesting boxes for them. Wood ducks are the only waterfowl to nest above the ground-usually in hollow trees, which are dwindling in supply. The ComEd team donated seven wood duck nesting boxes to the Lake County Forest Preserves in August, and an eighth box was installed near a pond at ComEd’s Libertyville, Ill. facility, where wood ducks have been spotted the past two years.
Through ComEd’s membership in the Edison Electric Institute, the utility is part of the Avian Power Line Interaction Committee (APLIC), an organization that develops educational resources, funds research, provides cost-effective management options, and serves as the focal point for avian interaction utility issues. ComEd will continue to work with the APLIC, other utilities, and local organizations to determine best practices for safely cohabitating with all animals.
“ComEd is working to mitigate the negative effects of its equipment on birds and other wildlife while maintaining safe and dependable service. We were pleased to learn that our efforts have made a real difference in safeguarding these creatures, helping to preserve the natural splendor of Chicagoland for generations to come,” said Neena Hemmady, director, Environmental Health and Safety, ComEd.
ComEd’s bird-friendly efforts contribute to the company’s assortment of environmental initiatives. Past efforts include a 2002 partnership with the Chicago Park District, in which ComEd donated $1.5 million to support community-based science education programs and the restoration of several Chicago natural areas, such as the historic Jens Jensen Prairie River in Humboldt Park. ComEd’s portfolio of environmental initiatives also support Exelon 2020, a comprehensive environmental strategy to reduce, offset, or displace more than 15 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year by 2020 among ComEd’s parent, Exelon, its subsidiaries, and customers.