- Editor’s Note: This article was updated at 2:50 p.m. Monday, Aug. 24, to reflect an update in the scheduling of the helicopter work.
If you happen to see a guy hanging from a helicopter over power lines in South Elgin in the next few days, don’t worry. It’s not the latest daredevil stuntperson or Michael Keaton “Birdman” impersonator.
It’s actually a ComEd professional installing bird diverters on the 138 kilo-volt transmission line that runs along Stearns Road from ComEd’s Wayne substation to just east of Route 31.
The work is scheduled to start on Tuesday, Aug. 25, Commonwealth Edison spokesperson Sylvia Rogowski said. It’s expected to continue on Wednesday, Friday and finishing up on Saturday, weather permitting.
“The bird diverters are designed for use on overhead conductors to create greater visibility for avian flight paths on overhead lines and tower down guys,” she said.
The diverters are especially important this time of year — or at least they will be in the next couple months. The Chicago area’s proximity to Lake Michigan makes is part of the Mississippi Flyway, an avian migratory path from northwest Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. Each fall, an estimated 7 million birds pass through Chicago on their way to warmer winter homes, according to a PR Newswire press release.
The bird diverters have been used in a lot of situations to protect a variety of species, from pelicans in Dixon, IL, (yes, you read that right), to American kestrels in Boone County to wood ducks in Lake County to bald eagles in Cook County.
It’s also handy for humans who prefer their electric service uninterrupted. According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the organization estimates 5 to 15 percent of all power outages can be attributed to bird collisions with power lines.
Apparently — and we’ll just have to take their word for it — a “bird’s eye view” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. ComEd says birds have a limited ability to judge distance, which is why they keep running into things, like buildings and power lines. Power lines are especially difficult to see, and weather conditions like fog, rain, snow or darkness, may make the lines even less noticeable to birds.