Alarm about the Massive Death of Birds of Prey in the West of La Pampa

Universidad Nacional de La Pampa - Facultad de Ciencias Exactas y Naturales

August 08, 2016 | 5 ′ 36 ′′


Alarm about the Massive Death of Birds of Prey in the West of La Pampa


Researchers from the Centro para el Estudio y Conservación de las Aves Rapaces en Argentina and the Instituto de Ciencias de la Tierra y Ambientales de La Pampa registered in the last weeks the death by electrocution of almost one hundred black-chested buzzard-eagles in the electric wiring that communicates the cities of Chacharramendi and La Reforma in the west of the province. The specialists warn about the viability of the wild populations in this zone and other birds of prey in La Pampa if urgent measures are not taken to avoid new electrocution cases.

Electrocution is a mortality factor for birds of prey previously identified by the members of the Centro para el Estudio y Conservación de las Aves Rapaces en Argentina (CECARA), mainly for crowned eagles, which are endangered and studied since the creation of the Centro in 2001. In one of the frequent rounds that researchers do around the west of La Pampa, they have found in the electric wiring that joins Chacharramendi and La Reforma a great number of dead black-chested buzzard-eagles.

“Based in our previous records, this wiring is identified as high risk of electrocution due to the characteristics of the design and materials. This incident has made it more evident in a remarkable way”, explained to Argentina Investiga José Sarasola, director of the CECARA.

The researchers from the CECARA and the Instituto de Ciencias de la Tierra y Ambientales de La Pampa (INCITAP-Conicet) counted almost one hundred dead individuals by electrocution along 40 kilometers of electric wiring on the provincial road 20, in the part between both cities. Most of the affected birds (more than 90%) corresponded to black-chested buzzard-eagles, which is the second bird of prey in size after crowned eagles among those which can be observed in the provincial territory. A lower number of affected birds were variable hawks.

The presence of burns, mainly in the extremities, confirmed electrocution as the mortality factor. For the specialists’ relief, there were no cases of crowned eagles registered, although it is a transit place for this species, of which many specimens have satellite transmitters that permit to monitor their movements.

The great number of black-chested buzzard-eagles found in the zone rises questions for the researchers because, although it is possible to find them in La Pampa, they are not frequently observed. They are associated to hill and mountain topographies and this is why it is more common to see them in the hills of Lihué Calel in this province. Besides, they do not raise their breed in caldén woods like crowned eagles. This is the reason why the specialists think that eagles arrived scattered from some place with those characteristics, probably from the north of the Patagonia at the end of the reproductive stage. And here they have found abundant food due to the presence of rodents.

Electrocution in electric wires is a very important threat for birds, especially for birds of prey. Many of the big species of endangered eagles in the planet have experienced it, which has generated in many parts of the planet, especially in Europe, the adoption of necessary measures to avoid the electrocution of these animals. Only in Spain, it is estimated that the use of safe techniques in the construction of electric wiring has meant that 15,000 birds stopped dying by electrocution every year. These measures include from changes in the design and material of wirings to the use of structures that avoid that birds alight where electrocution is probable.

Measures to avoid electrocutions

In the electric wiring of the area where the incidents were registered, every ten or fifteen poles, there is one called tension pole, made of concrete and which has the objective of maintaining the line’s stability. In them, there are “bridges”, which connect cables above the control stick. When a bird alights there and touches one of the phases, it electrocutes due to the fact that concrete has iron in the interior, which allows it to discharge to earth. A precautionary measure consists in making the “bridge” below the control stick.

Besides, Sarasola remarked that before registering this mortality, the working team of the CECARA met the authorities of the Administración Provincial de Energía (APE), because it is programming a new 37-kilometer electric wiring work on the road that joins Árbol Solo and Paso de los Algarrobos. As it is an area of reproduction of crowned eagles, they agreed that for the first time, the “bridge” in the poles will be made below the control stick. And, due to the fact that this new wiring will reach a neighboring zone of the natural protected reserve “Ñochilei-Co”, additional measures will be taken, like perches for big sized eagles.

Lic. Mariano Pineda Abella
comcientifica@unlpam.edu.ar
Mariano Pineda Abella
Departamento de Comunicación Científica


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