Richard and Diane Van Vleck Personal Pages
The Home Habitat

Accidental Electrocution of Raptors
Landing on Pole Mounted Transformers

barn owl electrocuted on transformer Bird guard on the old transformer
Small birds routinely land on utility poles and wires in complete safety, since they touch only one wire at a time and are not grounded. Large raptors, such as red tailed hawks, often use electric poles as hunting perches, and, only rarely brush a wing against a second wire while clutching the other. However, the common pole mounted step-down transformer, usually found in front of rural homes, may not be as safe a perch. Such transformers have two terminals on the upper end which are only inches apart, just the right distance for a large hawk or owl to grasp.

Barn owls have nested in one of our chimneys for the past six years without incident, even though such a transformer is only ten yards from their nest. However, this year, during the nesting season, one of the pair was electrocuted. Luckily, seventeen days later, a new mate was present and a second nesting begun.

Our local electric company promptly responded to our request to make the pole safe. A plastic bird guard was fitted over one of the terminals. However, they didn't go for the idea of retrofitting all of their transformers in this manner.

Transformer terminals are apparently not a favorite perch for large birds. It took our barn owl six years to make it's lethal connection. However, many other instances of powerline electrocution of hawks and owls have been documented. If your property attracts raptors, a bird guard should be fitted to any nearby transformers.

2014 update - The transformer shown above failed several years ago and has now been replaced with a modern one, but still has the bird guard on top.

2014 Barn owl prey study
2012-2013 barn owl nesting
2011 barn owl nesting
2011 barn owl prey cam
2006 barn owl polygamy
2010 barn owl nesting
2003 barn owl nesting
2003 barn owl prey cam
The attic barn owl nest
Living with barn owls
The barn owl nest box
An interior barn owl box
Barn owl electrocution
The Barn Owl
2014 barn owl nesting - 2022 update The owls are back!

2022 update - Return of the barn owls
2021 Chimney Swift tower success!!!
2020 Barn Swallow nesting
Barn swallow nest cups
2019 Barn Swallows and Black Rat Snakes

2018 - The Barnyard Balance of Nature Goes Awry
Black rat snakes vs barn swallows, Northern flickers, kestrels and others

2018 Purple Martin preference for clam shells
2017 - Return of the Monarchs!
2017 Purple Martin prey photos
2010 - 2016 Northern flicker nestings
2014 house wren gourd use
2014 - A dramatic loss of many types of insects
2019-2020 Purple Martin nesting
2014 barn owl nesting - prey study
A new barn swallow shelter for 2013
2010 barn owl nesting
2010 Update
2016-2017 Kestrel nestings
Starling traps
Using blinds in the home habitat
Providing perches for birds
Providing snags for wildlife
The ugly young maple
2001 - 2013 nest cams
Use of tomato cages as hunting perches by insectivorous song birds
Vultures, beetles and the resurrection of life

Species of interest in our yard - photos and articles
barn owl American kestrel purple martin barn swallow Eastern bluebird
tufted titmouse Eastern phoebe yellow shafted flicker tree swallow chimney swift
house wren big brown bat Carolina wren brown thrasher catbird
cedar waxwing Northern mockingbird
Yellow warbler Acadian flycatcher

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