Third International Scientific and Practical Conference “Eagles of the Palearctic: Study and Conservation”

Raptors Conservation. Suppl. 2. Proceedings of Conferences

The Problem of Electrocution of Birds on Power Lines and the Progress of its Solution in the Middle Volga Basin

Bakka S.V. (Nurgush State Nature Reserve, Kirov, Russia)
Karyakin I.V. (Russian Raptor Research and Conservation Network; Sibecocenter LLC, Novosibirsk, Russia)
Kiseleva N.Yu. (Minin Nizhny Novgorod State Pedagogical University, Nizhny Novgorod, Russia)

Sergei Bakka
Igor Karyakin
Nadezhda Kiseleva
Recommended citation: Bakka S.V., Karyakin I.V., Kiseleva N.Y. The Problem of Electrocution of Birds on Power Lines and the Progress of its Solution in the Middle Volga Basin. – Raptors Conservation. 2023. S2: 382–387. DOI: 10.19074/1814-8654-2023-2-382-387 URL:

Research aims to describe the progress in solving the “Birds and power lines (PL)” in Volga region. More than 80 scientific articles on the scale of bird mortality on PLs and ways to solve this problem, as well as more than 30 internet media publications served as the material for analysis.

Isolated cases of bird deaths on PLs appear in scientific press and publications in the last quarter of the 20th century. The essay by V.M. Peskov “Birds on Wires” (1982) played an important role in understanding of the problem scale and drew the attention of local experts to it.

All requirements necessary to ensure the protection of birds from deaths on PLs have been laid down in the regulatory framework in 1995–1996 already. Federal Law “On the Fauna” (1995) fixed the obligation of legal entities and citizens to prevent the death of wildlife when operating communication and power lines (Article 28). In 1996, Government Decree of the Russian Federation dated August 13, 1996, N 997 “On approval of the requirements for the prevention of wildlife mortality in the implementation of manufacturing processes, as well as in the operation of transport routes, pipelines, communication lines and power lines” was issued, which required the use of bird protection devices (BPD) when operating PLs. The Methodology for assessing harm and calculating the extent of damage from the destruction of wildlife and their habitat was approved in 2000, which created an economic mechanism for influencing PL owners.

The work of A.V. Saltykov has become the catalyst for solving the “Birds and power lines” problem in the Volga region. In 1999, he published the first guide for preventing bird mortality on PLs, in 2000 – article “On the need for bird protection on power grid facilities of the Republic of Tatarstan”, in 2003 – defended dissertation on the topic “The problem of bird mortality on power lines in the Middle Volga region and justification of bird protection measures”.

Analysis of the dynamics of the number of scientific publications on the “Birds and power lines” problem in the Volga region and their authors in 2000–2023 showed a rapid increase in attention to this problem in 2005–2014; in the last decade, publishing activity has been slowly declining (Table 1). In the early 2000s, researchers mainly focused their attention on assessing the extent of bird mortality on PLs in specific regions. It was shown, for example, that in the Volga region even common raptor species mortality (such as Common Buzzard Buteo buteo) is comparable with their regional abundance, and for rare species of large raptors, deaths on PLs are the main limiting factor. Later, there was an increase in the number of publications on the use of BPDs.

Scientific evidence for the importance of solving this problem boosted public activism. Researchers initiated and lead environmental programs (A.V. Saltykov, the creator and permanent leader of “Birds and power lines” of the Russian Bird Conservation Union; A.I. Matsyna and R.Kh. Bekmansurov, leaders for the activity in Nizhny Novgorod region and the Republic of Tatarstan, respectively).

Table 1. Dynamics of the number of scientific publications on the problem "Birds and Power Lines" in the regions of the Volga region and their authors in 2000–2023.

Period, years Number of scientific publications Number of authors
2000–2004 7 1
2005–2009 13 8
2010–2014 28 25
2015–2019 23 36
2020–2023 14 21


Experimental BPDs made of plastic bottles were first installed on PL sections that are the most dangerous for birds in the early 2000s in Ulyanovsk region under the direction of A.V. Saltykov. They turned out to be cheap, quite effective, and durable, working up to 10 years. By 2006–2010 industrial BPDs were developed and manufactured, and since then, mass supply of industrial BPDs have become available for consumers.

BPD installation activity is gaining momentum. This activity is included in the environmental company policy or is implemented based on a court decision. In 2006–2016 “Gazprom Transgaz Nizhny Novgorod” LLC (leads in the number of installed BPDs among the subsidiaries of “Gazprom” PJSC) equipped more than 270 km of PLs with BPDs. Self-supporting wire was used for the newly constructed high-voltage lines, which ensures the bird safety. In 2009–2011, “Grid company” PJSC installed more than 1200 BPDs in the Republic of Tatarstan in the “Nizhnyaya Kama” National Park and Volga-Kama Nature Reserve (however, this did not prevent eagle mortality completely). Since 2011, a targeted program for the installation of BPDs on overhead PLs belonging to “Ulyanovsk Distribution Grids”, a branch of PJSC “Interregional distribution grid company of Volga”, has been successfully implemented in Ulyanovsk region. This program will result in more than 300,000 BPDs being installed by 2026.

PLs belonging to “Transneft – Upper Volga” JSC have begun to be equipped with BPDs in the 2020s: in 2020, more than 22,000 BPDs were installed in the Nizhny Novgorod and Ryazan regions, as well in the Republic of Mari El, in 2021 – more than 10,000 in the Nyzhny Novgorod region, more than 18 km of uninsulated 6–10 kV PL wires were replaced with a self-supporting isolated wire.

In 2019, “Gazprom Transgaz Nizhny Novgorod” LLC installed 1,810 BPDs in the Chuvash Republic under a court order (based on 2018 audit by the Cheboksary Interdistrict Environmental Prosecutor’s Office). In 2020, the transport prosecutor filed a claim to the Zheleznodorozhny District Court of Ulyanovsk, following the audit by the Ulyanovsk transport prosecutor’s office investigating deaths of rare bird species on PLs at railway transport facilities. The court ordered “Russian Railways” JSC to equip overhead PLs belonging to the Ulyanovsk power supply distance with BPDs.

Some of the actions covered by media and used by energy sector in reports and PR campaigns raise doubts in their expediency and focus on preventing bird deaths. For example, “Federal Grid Company of Unified Energy System” (“Federal Grid Company of Unified Energy System” PJSC) reported in the media that in 2021 they installed BPDs on 220–500 kV PLs (minimally hazardous to birds), ensuring the power transmission from Zhigulevskaya HPP, Balakovo NPP, Saratovskaya HPP, Cheboksarskaya HPP, Iriklinskaya GRES into power grids of the nine regions of the Volga Federal District with a population of 14 million people.

Large companies (“Gazprom Transgaz Nizhny Novgorod” LLC, “Transneft – Upper Volga” JSC, “Ulyanovsk Distribution Grids”, etc.) are most active in solving the “Birds and power lines” problem as they have equipped most of their PLs with efficient BPDs.

However, many PLs belonging to different owners have not yet been equipped with BPDs. The current objective is to provide BPDs for PLs owned by mobile operators. Thus, despite notable progress in solving the problem, it is far from being resolved. Serious efforts, a new stage of research, and practical actions are required.

The cap of a 10 kV power line support with insulating bird protection devices. Photo by R. Bekmansurov.