Electrical pylons are frequently used by birds for perching, roosting, and nesting. These behaviors can lead to electrocutions, particularly when pylons are constructed of grounded concrete and steel crossarms, as they were in our study area near Arak, Iran. To address electrocutions of Eurasian Kestrels (Falco tinnunculus) and a variety of passerines nesting on a 20-kV distribution line, we documented construction and use of nests on pylons on a 34-km segment of power line in 2018. Following removal of nests by the electric utility operating the line, we installed nest boxes on pylons that previously supported nests, and in 2019 we documented use of those nest boxes. We predicted that after installation of nest boxes, numbers of Eurasian Kestrel nests would increase, and numbers of nests outside of nest boxes, avian electrocutions, and faults (electric current arcing from conductors to pylons) would decrease. All four predictions were validated. We documented 31 nests in 2018, including 3 Eurasian Kestrel nests. In 2019, we documented 6 nests outside of nest boxes, and 31 nests in nest boxes, including 16 Eurasian Kestrel nests. In 2018, we found 1 electrocuted Eurasian Kestrel, and 39 electrocuted passerines. In 2019, we found 3 electrocuted Eurasian Kestrels, 11 passerines, 2 Eurasian Eagle-Owls (Bubo bubo), and 1 Steppe Eagle (Aquila nipalensis). The rate of electrocutions per nest for Eurasian Kestrels decreased from 0.33 to 0.19, and the electrocution count for all birds decreased by 57.5%. Electrical faults, an indirect measure of potential avian electrocutions, decreased from 173 in 2018 to 120 in 2019. Although there is some risk that nest boxes on power poles could create ecological traps, our results suggest that in this study electrocutions and electrical faults were reduced, supporting conservation goals and electric power reliability goals while simultaneously reducing electric utilities' maintenance obligations.
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Vol. 54 • No. 4