Austin Energy crews kill baby birds when removing nests from utility poles

- Austin Energy has ruffled some feathers with their policy to remove Monk Parakeet nests from utility poles.

Currently, the nests are removed with a pole and the baby birds inside are terminated. That has a local bird conservation organization crying foul.

Monk Parakeets are not native to the Austin area, but they have definitely flourished in the Capital City. 

Austin Energy said the birds build huge nests that can be quite problematic.

“Monk Parakeets like to put their nests, which are made of wooden sticks, up in power lines, on top of transformers and places where they really are a combustion hazard,” said Robert Cullick, spokesman for Austin Energy. 

Cullick said crews remove a handful of nests each year in order to prevent power outages and fires, but only if they absolutely need to. 

“We take an eight foot pole, we remove the nest and pull it to the ground,” said Cullick.

Unfortunately, when the nests are knocked down, any baby birds inside come with it.

“If the nests come down and the birds can't get away, they're terminated,” Cullick said. 

That method doesn't fly with local conservation organization the Travis Audubon Society.

“We’re shocked and we're horrified that the current policy of Austin Energy is to kill those birds,” said Jordan Price of the Travis Audubon Society.  

He said baby birds should be removed and taken to a rehabilitation facility before the nest is pulled to the ground.

“So we understand that it is a fire safety threat, but what's currently happening is not humane. It's cruel treatment to these beautiful birds,” Price said.

“The birds have to be removed while the power is on with an insulated 8 foot stick, so, in that situation, we cannot reach in. We'd never ask our employees to reach into a dangerous situation and remove the birds by hand because it might get them killed,” said Cullick. 

The Audubon Society points to other cities and states that have dealt with the problem in a different way.

“There are utilities in Dallas, there are utilities throughout the country, that have very humane nest removal policies,” Price said. 

“If they know ways to help us prevent them from nesting or remove the nests in a safe and effective way, we'd be glad to talk to them,” said Cullick. 

Now that the Audubon Society has taken the Monk Parakeets under their wing, changes to Austin Energy's policy could be on the horizon.

“We don't want the birds killed either, ever,” Cullick said. 

The Travis Audubon Society is currently asking for volunteers to follow Austin Energy crews and document them removing Monk Parakeet nests.

To sign up visit http://travisaudubon.org/.

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