Swans getting zapped in power lines in Qualicum Bay

The incidents have caused 14 BC Hydro customers, including one storefront, to go intermittently without power last week

Four dead trumpeter swans and three power outages in less than a week have B.C. Hydro crews installing “bird diverters” in Meadowood.

B.C. Hydro spokesperson Karla Louwers confirmed last Tuesday, Thursday and Friday swans made contact with power lines leading to “bird-related outages” in the rural community, northwest of Parksville, leaving at least four fowl dead in their tracks.

She said 14 Hydro customers, including one storefront, intermittently went without power last week.

Louwers said the recent spike in outages caused by birds is “uncommon” in the area.

But Parksville Qualicum Beach bird enthusiast Sandra Gray said she’s not surprised.

“They’re giant,” said Gray, about trumpeter swans. “Their wingspan is almost three metres.”

Gray said power lines service “huge corridors that transect the landscape” and often birds get caught up, or surprised by, the lines.

She said trumpeter swans stop by Parksville Qualicum Beach during the winter months, due to our mild weather, where they feed on grass roots, aquatic invertebrates, leaves, seeds, insects, crustaceans and occasionally small invertebrates.

“They are here on Vancouver Island from Courtenay to Duncan, including Oceanside,” said Gray, who noted 562 trumpeter swans were recorded by birders in the most recent Christmas bird count in Parksville Qualicum Beach. In neighbouring Courtenay, she said there were more than 1,000 recorded.

In an effort to protect the majestic birds, B.C. Hydro started setting up bird diverters Wednesday soon after the outages were reported.

Louwers explains bird diverters “use material that reflect and glow after dark to alert birds of obstructions and prevent collisions with power lines.”

She said they are relatively inexpensive but time consuming to set up, adding “the colours are designed specifically for avian vision.”

Louwers said it is important to report details when calling B.C. Hydro so officials can assess the situation properly.