Birds are exposed to a variety of risks. By far the biggest and most complex risk results from the intensified use and changes made to bird habitats by humans. In addition to this, there are direct risks which affect almost all European bird species to a different degree. This includes that birds are being hunted, that they become the prey of cats, hit windows, get caught by the slipstream of heavy transport vehicles or that they collide with overhead power lines.
NABU and German transmission system operators have been working on reducing the collision risk for birds for years. They do this especially by installing so-called bird protection markers at critical sections of power lines. Moreover, sensitive bird populations are considered early on in the development of new power lines.
The idea of a portal, by which members of the public can contact NABU upon finding a dead bird around a power line, was developed to be able to identify critical line sections even faster and build upon the insights in future planning processes. For the first time, NABU and the involved transmission and distribution grid operators jointly and systematically collect data to improve the information base upon which they identify where there is a need to act and what is the right approach to increase bird protection.
Once registered by NABU, the information is analysed by an expert ornithologist and uploaded to an interactive map of Germany, which contains different layers of information on bird finds, electricity grid pathways, presence of certain birds and special protected areas (SPAs). This is then used to inform the most important mitigation measures (such as visible bird markers) on the overhead lines.
So far, there are 7 German grid operators taking part in the project: all 4 transmission system operators (TSOs - 50Hertz, Amprion, TenneT and TransnetBW) as well as 3 distribution system operators (DSOs - Bayernwerk, Netze BW, Westnetz).
Aside from the concrete work on the Bird Portal, the project provides fertile ground for extensive collaboration between NGOs and TSOs working on both the grid and nature protection. For example, within the scope of the project, we convene a working group on the topic of bird-risk mitigation measures (e.g. bird flight diverters), and share experiences and current research.
The project partners also actively engage external stakeholders, such as civil society initiatives, planning officers, technology developers and authorities. For example, in September 2022, we organised a national conference in Germany to bring together these actors, aiming to uncover the barriers and solutions to protecting birds around the grid. You can read more about the conference and the results gathered from discussions here in English and here in German. You can also view presentations and a photo album from the event on this page.
Beyond the scope of this project, RGI seeks to spread knowledge and awareness about the issue in Germany and beyond, and we produce communication materials to this end. This includes a 'Shared Airspace' video series and an informative brochure, both of which are available in multiple European languages.