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The Illuminating Co. Partners with Wildlife Officials to Protect Nesting Birds, Prevent Outages

June 18, 2021
Proactive work to protect an active red-tailed hawk nest containing eggs situated on a transformer near an energized power line in Strongsville.

The Illuminating Co., a subsidiary of FirstEnergy Corp., recently partnered with wildlife officials to protect an active red-tailed hawk nest containing eggs situated on a transformer near an energized power line in Strongsville. The proactive work will also prevent power disruptions in the area that could be caused by the fire hazard created from a wet nest capable of conducting electricity.

To keep the birds safe until the hatchlings fledge in the fall, the company worked with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services to install a new pole and transformer adjacent to the existing equipment. Power was redirected to the new equipment and the equipment around the nest was de-energized without impacting service to customers.

"Disturbing or removing nests can be a complicated task because of environmental regulations," said Amy Ruszala, an environmental scientist and avian expert at FirstEnergy. "When a nest with eggs is situated on our equipment and poses a serious threat to the birds' safety and our service reliability, we work with state and federal wildlife officials to devise a plan to keep the birds out of harm's way and the power flowing reliably to our customers."

Birds of prey, like red-tailed hawks, often seek out tall structures, including utility poles and electric transmission towers, to build their nests. These nesting habits often place the birds near energized electrical equipment — jeopardizing their well-being and potentially causing power outages.

When the birds head south for winter, The Illuminating Co. personnel plan to remove the transformer on which the hawk nest is currently situated. They will also install nesting deterrents atop the new electrical equipment to discourage birds from nesting there in the future.

Protecting birds is nothing new to FirstEnergy and its utilities. The company has made great strides enhancing its avian protection efforts, including the implementation of drones to complete bird nest inspections and deployment of a mobile app that allows utility personnel to report avian issues in real time, streamlining the process to protect nesting birds and enhance electric service reliability. These ongoing efforts continue to help reduce power outages caused by nesting birds.

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