Avian Protection Program

SRP supports balanced, proactive solutions to environmental issues. Our avian protection program and other related activities are dedicated to preserve the native wildlife and habitat of species of the Southwest while serving the needs of growing, thriving communities.

Arizona's diverse ecosystems support dozens of different species of birds. The region is a winter way station to even more species. SRP's Avian Protection Program promotes harmonious coexistence of power facilities and wildlife habitat.

Young Red Tailed Hawks are removed from a power pole.

Partnership efforts

SRP's partnerships with the Arizona Game & Fish Department, the Fish & Wildlife Service, Liberty Wildlife Rehabilitation Foundation and others represent leading-edge efforts in avian protection.

One aspect of SRP's commitment to preserving wildlife is the company's involvement in the Arizona Bald Eagle Nest Watch Program. Since the southwestern bald eagle nests in and around the state's rivers and reservoirs, SRP is involved in ensuring these majestic raptors are protected and left undisturbed in their habitat.

The Nest Watch Program is lead by the Arizona Game & Fish Department and includes participants from 14 different state, federal, tribal and private organizations that form the Southwestern Bald Eagle Management Committee.

In addition, SRP supports the Arizona Game & Fish department by providing helicopters, pilots and bucket trucks so that Game & Fish biologists can survey eagle nests and band young eagles.

SRP also provides assistance to the Arizona Game & Fish Department and the Peregrine Fund in their efforts to establish a population of California condors on the Vermillion Cliffs in northern Arizona. These huge feathered gliders, with their nine-foot wingspan, once roamed wild in the Arizona skies until about 70 years ago. There are now more California Condors in the wild in Arizona than there were in the world in 1982.

Raptors, large birds a major focus

SRP's new electric facilities are designed to prevent birds from coming in contact with "hot" or energized portions of the system. SRP routinely upgrades older poles and transformers when problems with raptors occur.

Devices that protect birds from the electric system include:

  • insulated jumper wires with rubber tubing
  • plastic caps on top of transformer bushings and lightning arresters that insulate and prevent electrical conduction
  • coated transformer with several layers of non-conductive paint

The Avian Protection Program does strive to protect all birds, but an emphasis is placed on protecting birds of prey, or raptors. Since hawks and owls are large birds with wingspans of three to four feet, they encounter more problems with power lines and facilities.

Like most birds, raptors such as hawks, falcons and owls tend to land on the highest possible point in an area, for example, a power pole. In some circumstances, SRP crews either install perches on tops of power poles to encourage the animals to land away from energized lines, or install special devices that help discourage perching in some areas.

Protection of the Southwest willow flycatcher

Today, more than 100 pairs of the Southwest willow flycatcher, on the federal Endangered Species list since 1995, are nesting near the shoreline at Roosevelt Lake. In the past few years, the water level of Roosevelt Lake, the Valley's major surface water supply, has dropped due to low precipitation and runoff from the mountains. And as the lake has dropped - it's less than one-quarter full - the birds have moved their nests closer to the water.

SRP wants to allow the lake to rise in future years to accommodate its usual level, as well as the conservation storage made possible by Roosevelt Dam. But even an incremental increase in the lake elevation today could affect the area where the flycatcher is nesting - presenting a challenge to SRP.

Roosevelt Dam's height was raised to 357 feet about five years ago, expanding the lake's storage capacity by 20 percent - enough water for 1 million more people. The 77-foot increase provides six Valley cities with 304,729 acre-feet of water storage and SRP with substantial amounts of flood control and Safety of Dams storage space.

The flycatcher species is indigenous to parts of Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Utah and Colorado. The birds migrate to Central America in the winter months, returning in the spring.

SRP is working with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, environmental groups and Valley cities to find a solution to the challenge of adequate storage and flycatcher preservation. SRP has received a special permit to the Fish & Wildlife Service to allow for the lake to be filled in the future while in compliance with the Endangered Species Act. As part of the permit process, SRP examined alternatives for protecting the flycatcher habitat, both at Roosevelt Lake and on other Arizona streams.

How you can help

If you notice an injured or electrocuted bird in or around SRP power facilities should call (602) 236-BIRD (236-2473) or (602) 236-8888.

Injured birds should not be moved; an untrained person could aggravate the animal's injury. Injured raptors especially should be left to be handled by experts. Raptors have powerful, razor-sharp talons that can do serious harm when the animal is frightened or hurt.