Electrocution is the leading cause of unnatural mortality for many species of protected birds, especially raptors, according to the White Paper on electrocution in Spain, the first to be published on this subject.
Prepared by the conservationist association GREFA, commissioned by the European project AQUILA a-LIFE aimed at the recovery of Bonelli’s eagle or Bonelli’s eagle, the study warns that power lines with “risk designs” threaten population consolidation of species with positive tendencies, such as the imperial eagle, and limit the recovery of others with regressive tendencies, such as Bonelli’s own eagle.
The text refers to several scientific studies that have been warning of “the massive death of birds by impacts against power lines” since the eighties of the twentieth century and points out the need to correct “dangerous electrical supports” to avoid it.
Data provided by the Ministry for the Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge (MITECO) indicate that about 39,000 birds are electrocuted annually, while the CCAA counted 12,770 in the period between 1990 and 2020.
A notably higher figure is that provided by the Fundación de Amigos del Águila Imperial, Lince Ibérico and Espacios Naturales Privados, which in 2018 calculated, based on extrapolations, an annual mortality of between 193,000 and 337,000 copies.
The most threatened
Birds of prey are the most susceptible to death by electrocution -64% of the total-, although only 7% are classified as vulnerable or in danger of extinction: Bonelli’s eagle, imperial eagle and red kite They are some of the most endangered, along with the common buzzard, eagle owl, common kestrel or griffon vulture.
The text recalls that already in 2014 the MITECO estimated that there were more than 200,000 electrical supports that had to be corrected in the 11 Autonomous Communities that then provided data, but an update included in this White Paper brings the figure to more than 394,000.
Castile and Leon -more than 162,000-, Aragon -more than 64,000- and Castilla la Mancha -57,000- are the regions with the highest number of dangerous supports, according to this document, although there are no public data from other autonomous communities in which the highest number of electrocutions have been registered. Thus, since 1990, the places where there have been the most deaths from electrocution are Andalusia -4,391-, Castilla-La Mancha -1,539-, Aragon -1,484- and Catalonia -1,186-.
A “worrying” and “clearly undervalued” issue in this regard are the faulty fixes, consequence of “bad practices in the use and installation of insulating materials and elements”.
The report indicates that the financing of the corrections of these lines “cannot be based on public funds” only – national, regional and European – because in Spain, from the end of the seventies of the last century to date, 42% was contributed by private funds from the large electric power distribution companies.
In addition, it recommends the use of e-faunalert, a free mobile application created by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN-MED) and the Foundation of Friends of the Imperial Eagle, Iberian Lynx and Private Natural Spaces, which allows the identification and mapping of black points of collision and electrocution.
The White Paper reminds that there are other forms of citizen contribution such as the national volunteer network of the Iberian Society for the Study and Conservation of Ecosystems that develops the program ‘Put a tenant in your sight’ or the initiative coordinated by Ecologists in Action of Huesca to collect information on black spots.