The sad ending of a White-tailed Eagle which fledged from Poland, but then collided with power lines in Romania.

eaglet The White-tailed Eagle as a chick (Photo: Eagle Conservation Committee)

Last year in the middle of December Pawel Mirski contacted us from the polish Eagle Conservation Committee (Komitet Ochrony Orlów). He asked us to search for a White-tailed Eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla) which had been tagged with a satellite transmitter in Poland, and had, during winter wandering, flown to the western border of Romania. For three days the transmitter sent data from the same spot, near Dorobanti (Arad county), which suggested the eagle was either dead or the transmitter had fallen off.

The eagle was a a one year old bird. Together with his brother they were equipped with satellite transmitters in June last year, at the location where they hatched in Northeast Poland, in the Knyszyska forest. Though his brother stayed nearby their nest in a range of 130 km, this White-tailed Eagle left Poland in September  2014 and flying 800 km until it arrived to Romania. Of all tagged the Polish White-tailed Eagles this was the only one which didn’t spend the winter within polish borders.

The White-tailed Eagle during deploying the satellite transmitter (Photo: Eagle Conservation Committee)


Based upon the precise satellite data Romanian Scientists managed to locate the bird. By the time they got to it, he was unfortunately already dead. Though the location is a good hunting area, often visited by Imperial Eagles – a rarely seen species in Romania – it`s dangerous for raptors because there are many medium voltage power lines crossing this landscape. The unsuitable, uninsulated pylons are deadly to birds who use these places for roosting or perching. Medium voltage pylons especially threaten large sized birds such as raptors and storks, as when resting on the cross beams of the pylon their long wings can easily collide with the 20000 volt power lines, the shock of which can kill them.

The carcase of White-tailed Eagle with the satellite transmitter and the killer pylon

This White-tailed Eagle became the victim of such a pylon accident. Most European countries, like Hungary are incomparably far ahead of Romania in the insulation of middle voltage lines to make them safer for birds. Here unfortunately only nature conservation projects provide financial support, meaning just short segments of power lines are insulated. Although small, these have already proved crucial for local bird populations. On a national level however, we can`t expect civil organizations and other entities working in nature conservation to provide these sources. Instead, it is necessary that it is done by the electricity transmission operator companies which maintain and operate these electric lines.

The 800 km long road of the White-tailed Eagle

Based upon estimations, in Romania each year 100 000 birds become victims of electrocution, making it one of Romania’s most serious threats to birds. As the case of White-tailed Eagle from Poland shows, this problem endangers not only Romanian birds but migratory birds as well. What is more telling than the life story of this unlucky bird, who flew 800 km traversing Poland, Ukraine, Slovakia and Hungary, without anything happening to him. And in Romania he could only fly 400 metres…

This article was first published by Milvus Group

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