A helicopter team is performing aerial daredevil work near Alton this week in an effort to save migrating trumpeter swans, the largest waterfowl in North America.
On Monday specialists with Haverfield Aviation began installing "swan diverters" from power lines running through the Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary near the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers.
Tim Fox, a spokesman with Ameren Missouri, tells Daily RFT
that the utility company is working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers to suspend some 1,000 diverters from power lines 75 to 100 feet in the air. The devices look like yellow corkscrews (measuring about two feet long) designed to alert birds about the wires.
"There's been some evidence that birds are hitting the lines, which is obviously not good for the birds and also runs the risk of knocking out power to consumers," says Fox.
The diverters are being placed on the static wires that run above the high-voltage lines and are meant to absorb lightning strikes. "Ideally, the swans will see the diverters and then fly above or below the lines," says Fox.
Ameren is footing the $50,000 cost to install the diverters. Some 400 to 500 trumpeter swans winter at Riverlands each year. The birds, on the brink of extinction a century ago, can live up to 24 years in the wild and are known to mate for life.