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Crows' nests on utility poles in north Japan pref. ruffle power firm's feathers

Workers remove a crow's nest at a height of about 12 meters in Yuwashibanoshinden in the city of Akita, on April 15, 2021. (Mainichi/Marika Inomori)

AKITA -- An electric power company in the northern Japan prefecture of Akita is struggling with crows that are in their breeding season, as their nests built on utility poles cause power outages when they touch power lines and other equipment.

    According to Sendai-based Tohoku Electric Power Network Co., which is in charge of power transmission and distribution in the area, there have been four power outages caused by crow nests in the prefecture in this year as of April 14, affecting a total of 1,831 households.

    One of those power outages occurred at JR Akita Station on March 25, causing delays to shinkansen bullet trains and other services, and affecting the daily lives of citizens. According to the company, 1,063 nests have already been removed in the prefecture this year as of April 14, and 3,095 nests were disposed of in 2020.

    Crows build their nests during the breeding season from March to July, but if they contain eggs or chicks, they cannot be removed without permission under the wild birds and mammals protection law, and no action can be taken until they leave the nest. Therefore, if a nest is found, a quick response is necessary.

    One recent removal operation was conducted on April 15. At around 10:30 a.m. the company's yellow aerial work platform vehicle pulled up next to a power pole in Yuwashibanoshinden in the city of Akita. On top of that pole, where the wires connect, was a crow's nest.

    Two workers wearing yellow helmets got onto the platform and slowly ascended to a height of 12 meters, the same height as the crow's nest. Manipulating about a 1.5-meter-long device made of non-conductive material, they carefully lifted the crow's nest and placed it neatly in a bag.

    A removed crow's nest about 30 centimeters in diameter is seen in Yuwashibanoshinden in the city of Akita, on April 15, 2021. Tree branches, dead grass, and feathers were used to build the nest. (Mainichi/Marika Inomori)

    The nest was made of tree branches, feathers, and dried grass, which were probably gathered from the surrounding area, and was about 30 centimeters in diameter. Crows are said to be able to build a nest as fast as in a day. As materials for their nests, they often use discarded wire hangers from homes that easily conduct electricity. When these wires come in contact with power lines and connecting points, they leak electricity and cause power outages.

    In order to prevent crows from building nests, the company has come up with countermeasures such as attaching plastic needles and pinwheels made with reflective materials to utility poles. However, once the crows learn that the equipment is safe, they get used to it and sometimes build their nests right next to the defensive tools.

    Kimio Sato, 54, the chief engineer who was supervising the site that day, said, "Perhaps because of the warm weather this year, the nesting season was earlier than usual. If you find a nest on a power pole, please contact us."

    For inquiries in northeast Japan areas, contact the company at 0120-175-366. (in Japanese)

    (Japanese original by Marika Inomori, Akita Bureau)

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