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Vulnerable Species Protection

Agreement secures safer power lines for Hungary’s Birds…

On 26 February, the Hungarian Ornithological and Nature Conservation Society (MME; BirdLife in Hungary) signed an agreement with the Ministry of Environment and Water (MEW), and all relevant electric companies in Hungary, to provide a long-term solution for bird-electrocutions. The signing parties promised to transform power lines in Hungary, and to make them more ‘bird-friendly’ by 2020.

Bird mortality along electric power lines in Hungary

Since the 1980s, electrocutions and collisions with electric power lines have caused the death of thousands of protected birds in Hungary and other European countries. The real extent of the problem, and the approximate number of affected birds, were not clear until MME started to systematically gather data on electrocuted birds in 2004.

To date, five national surveys of power lines have been completed by 150 volunteers and national park employees. They covered all important bird habitats in Hungary.In total, 2,183 carcasses of electrocuted birds were found underneath 19,216 electric poles. Based on these findings, MME estimated that at least 30,000 birds (especially Raptors and Corvids) are killed annually.

“Electrocution is one of the most Significant causes of death for several globally threatened raptor species, such as Eastern Imperial Eagle Aquila heliaca, Saker Falcon Falco cherrug and Red-footed Falcon Falco vespertinus” said Márton Horváth (MME).

Another serious problem concerning electric power lines is birds colliding with the wires. These incidents affect mainly large migratory species such as cranes and geese, as well as the Vulnerable Great Bustard Otis tarda.

Conservation measures undertaken

In 1991, MME, in co-operation with electric engineers, developed a new design of electric poles which has proven to be an effective tool to decrease the number of bird casualties. Since that time around 50,000 pylons have been insulated with the financial support of the MEW, the European Community’s LIFE-Nature Fund, and also the help of electric companies. About 215,000 pylons are still considered highly-dangerous to birds within Hungary, so more efforts are now needed to further reduce the threat.New ‘Accessible sky’ agreement

The new ‘Accessible sky’ agreement is a voluntary commitment, forming the basis of a long-term solution for the problem of bird electrocution in Hungary. It was signed by MME, the MEW and the electric companies (E.ON, ELMŰ-ÉMÁSZ, DÉMÁSZ). MME and MEW are now preparing a detailed map of dangerous power lines, which indicates ‘priority categories’ for each site. These priority categories will be defined according to observed mortality rates, and the distribution of priority bird species.

Based on these data, a timetable will be agreed by each party. The electric companies involved promised a ‘bird-friendly’ transformation of all dangerous power lines in Hungary by 2020, and agreed to only use ‘bird-friendly’ methods in managing newly constructed power lines. The work will be financed by European and Hungarian funds, and also by the electric companies themselves. MME is grateful to Mr. Péter Olajos (Member of the European Parliament), who created the idea and successfully coordinated the agreement for nearly a year.

4th July 2014