Every year we protect thousands of birds from power lines along the Danube river.
Because a world without birds would be a sad place.

Project overview

Transnational project to prevent thousands of birds from electrocution and collisions with power lines

  • Project title: Transnational conservation of birds along Danube river
  • Project acronym: LIFE DANUBE FREE SKY
  • Project code: LIFE19 NAT/SK/001023
  • Project duration: 01/09/2020 – 28/02/2026

 

In view of the current climate and environmental crises, the need for the protection of the suffering wildlife on our planet has become more crucial than ever. One of the biggest threats for the wild living species of birds is electrocution and collisions with power lines causing thousands of avoidable deaths and injuries. These threats are targeted by the LIFE Danube Free Sky project representing a unique example of wide transnational cooperation along with one of the most important migration corridors, stop-over sites, and wintering places for many bird species in Europe - the Danube river. During the period of over 5 years of project implementation, 15 partners from 7 countries will develop strong collaboration and implement the most effective solutions in order to prevent existential threats to birds. After this period, the visibility of more than 245 km of top priority power lines will be increased. Also, more than 3200 of the most dangerous poles within the project area will be adjusted to ensure birds´ safety.

Bird mortality caused by interaction with power lines and other electric-utility structures has been documented for over 380 species of birds, including critically endangered and threatened ones. Around 2074 km of 8 types of above-ground power lines dangerous for birds can be found within the LIFE Danube Free Sky project area. The impact of this range of power lines represents a serious and considerable threat to wintering and breeding/reproducing population of 12 target species. By the installation of bird flight diverters and insulation of dangerous poles in 23 Special Protection Areas and 9 Important Bird Areas, the project will prevent about 2000 individuals of target species (and many more of other species) from being killed or injured after collision with wires and/or due to electrocution EVERY YEAR.

Preventing birds from collisions and electrocution is important to compensate for other threats that the endangered species need to face. The restoration of water habitats along the Danube river was carried out under 16 LIFE projects so far. As a result, the birds are more attracted to the restored sites, including the target species. Therefore, it is necessary to prevent them from being killed on power lines in such areas.

The LIFE Danube Free Sky project represents an example of wide transnational cooperation. Strong collaboration is presented of beneficiaries from 7 countries (Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania) and one non-beneficiary country (Germany) including the private commercial sector (8 electric companies and 1 railway company), nature conservation authorities, municipality, and private non-commercial entities. The project presents a solution to one of the biggest threats for the wild living species of birds nowadays – interaction with the power lines.

 

official logo of the European Commission LIFE ProgrammeThe LIFE Danube Free Sky – Transnational conservation of birds along the Danube river (LIFE19 NAT/SK/001023) project has received funding from the LIFE Programme of the European Union.

LIFE Danube Free Sky - Kick-off video

Project area

MAP OF THE REGION LOCATION OF THE PROJECT COUNTRIES danube free sky

 

 

The project area consists of 23 Special Protection Areas (SPAs) and 9 Important Bird Areas (IBAs):

 

MAP OF THE Special Protection areas and Important Birds Areas LOCATION OF THE PROJECT AREA danube free sky

 

official logo of the NATURA 2000

SPAs are part of NATURA 2000 – the largest coordinated network of protected areas in the world, consisting of over 18% of the EU´s land area and more than 8% of its marine territory.

 

 

IBAs are places of international significance for the conservation of birds and another biodiversity, while the main purpose of the IBA Programme of BirdLife International is to secure the long-term conservation of locations that are significant for birds and biodiversity.

With its riparian zones and riverine habitats, the Danube forms ecological networks and often build the backbone for bio-corridors. In addition, the corridor and its adjacent areas attract hundreds of bird species. Every year millions of birds follow the Danube on their spring and autumn odyssey to and from distant migrating sites. Only the Lower Danube and Danube Delta host some 360 species of birds, including the rare Dalmatian Pelican, as well as 90% of the world population of Red-breasted Geese. Many of these species have undergone a dramatic decline in recent decades. Due to electrocution and/or collision, EACH YEAR this range kills 20% of the reproducing population of the Imperial Eagle, the Saker Falcon, and the Dalmatian Pelican.

Objectives

1

To contribute to the aim of the EU Biodiversity Strategy to halt the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services along the Danube river

2

To reduce and prevent direct and indirect bird mortality caused by electrocution and collisions with the power lines within 23 project SPAs and 9 IBAs

3

To increase the population of the 12 target species

4

To establish safer migration routes and habitats along the Danube river

5

To start/strengthen the cooperation between the key stakeholders and increase the efficiency of adopted measures on a transnational level

Project Actions and Results

The majority of project actions and investments are aimed to increase the survival rate of target bird species that are at present killed on their migration, roosting, breeding, or foraging habitats. The site-related actions will be carried out in the most valuable habitats.

Preventing collisions of birds with power lines

Preventing collisions instalacia odklonovacich prvkov firefly plosina VSD energia mensiaBirds´ collisions with power lines often happen because the birds are unable to detect the lines in their flying direction in time. Bird casualties due to collision with aboveground power lines can happen on distribution or transmission electricity grids. Frequently they can be observed especially in open areas where the power line crosses feeding, foraging, and nesting habitats used by birds. At greatest risk are the large, heavy bird species with low maneuverability, i.e. those with high wing loading and low aspect, such as bustards, pelicans, waterfowl, cranes, storks, and grouse.

The risk of collisions is higher at night, during dusk and dawn, and under the weather conditions that cause poor visibility (fog, rain, strong wind,..). Such clashes at high speed have fatal consequences for birds.

A coordinated field survey of the potentially dangerous above-grounded power lines at the beginning of the project is essential in order to determine the most dangerous sections on which the flight diverters will be installed. 

Achieved results:

Within the first months of the project, more than 80 field assistants in all project countries were trained on how to conduct recognition and baseline field surveys. A recognition survey was held in January-April 2021 with the main aim to recognize the most dangerous sections of power lines within the monitored project area. More than 1380 km of different voltages and constructions power lines were searched during the recognition survey in all project countries. Based on the results, the surveyed power lines were divided into 3 categories: potentially dangerous, to be verified, not dangerous. The monitoring scheme was updated with the results to ensure the proper implementation of the baseline survey, under which the first two categories of power lines are being monitored regularly until April 2022. Read more about the baseline survey: HEREAs a result, a conflict map of the riskiest power lines in priority areas will be prepared, specifying the selected power lines for installation of the bird flight diverters. Around 245 km of top-priority lines will be treated with mitigation measures to increase their visibility by electric companies until the end of the project.

Preventing electrocution
Monitoring actions
Nesting and breeding opportunities
Public awareness, dissemination, and networking activities

Target Species

Each of the target species are legally protected in all project countries. All of them are at risk of collisions with the overhead wires of above-ground electrical infrastructure or under the risk of electrocution (APLIC, 2012).

Official logo of the Nationalpark Donau-auen in Austria Official logo of the Österreichische Bundesbahnen - Austrian railway company Official logo of the Slovak electricity transmission system, Plc. company Official logo of the Energy distributor for the Western Slovakia Official logo of the Raptor Protection of Slovakia Official logo of MAVIR - energy distribution company in Hungary Official logo of the HEP-Distribution system operator ltd. in Croatia Official logo of the HOPS  - Croatian Transmission System Operator company
Official logo of the Kopački Rit national park in Croatia Official logo of the Bird Protection and Study Society of Serbia Official logo of the Elektrodistribucija Srbije Ltd. Belgrade (electricity distributor company in Serbia) Official logo of the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds Official logo of the CEZ Distribution Bulgaria AD - energy distribution company Official logo of the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve Authority - national park in Romania Official logo of the E-Distribuție Dobrogea - energy distribution company in Romania

LIFE Programme

The LIFE DANUBE FREE SKY project has received funding from the LIFE Programme of the European Union. More info.

Natura 2000

The LIFE DANUBE FREE SKY project is part of nature conservation and biodiversity projects in Natura 2000. More info.

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