Duquesne Light Company Employees Aid Wildlife Research with Local Bird Conservation Group

In May, Duquesne Light Company (DLC) employees visited Hays Woods — Pittsburgh’s largest urban forest — to assist with a Bird Lab project using a DLC transmission and distributor corridor to study wildlife. They joined Nick Liadis, Bird Lab’s executive director, who is also a master bird bander and leading the project. Bird Lab creates and implements bird-focused conservation practices by integrating research, education and community science.

Process of Bird Banding

Bird Lab ran a series of 11 mist nets over an eight-week period, ending in late May. Mist nets are constructed out of thin black thread giving the illusion of mist. Liadis said the nets safely capture the birds, enabling his team to collect biometric data and evaluate the birds’ health in the spring and fall, which is also peak migration time for birds.

As birds move around the habitat, they may get trapped by the net and fall into special pockets within the net’s construction. Banders frequently patrol the area to safely and quickly extract the birds caught in the nets. The birds are then placed in soft breathable bags that keep them calm during transport to the banding table, Liadis said.

Nick Liadis observing birds that have been entrapped by a mist net.
Nick Liadis observing birds that have been entrapped by a mist net.

Next, each bird is fitted with a band that allows them to move freely and easily. Some of the data Bird Lab collects includes the bird’s age, measurement, weight, sex, presence of breeding conditions and even the amount of fat the bird is carrying. The process takes less than one minute. Afterward, the banded birds are safely released to continue migrating to suitable nesting grounds.

Vegetation Management Committed to Sustainability

The Hays Woods right-of-way (ROW) — along with many others like it throughout DLC’s service territory — mostly includes land beneath the wires (i.e. the wire zone) and land between the wire zone and the edge of the ROW (i.e. the border zone). This design helps develop and maintain successional habitats that allow a variety of compatible plants, birds and other animals to thrive. The current condition of the Hays Woods ROW creates an “excellent travel and feeding corridor” for migrating songbirds such as warblers, thrushes, sparrows, kinglets and catbirds, Liadis said.

“DLC strives to ensure that utility rights-of-way are accessible to our crews while still supporting desirable plant species and wildlife throughout these corridors,” said Andrew Berchin, DLC’s environmental health and safety specialist. “These corridors are currently being used by migrating and local bird species for nesting, feeding and traveling, and this is why it’s vital we continue to maintain our sustainable vegetation management practices. The project really showcases our Vegetation Management team’s goal of sustaining a wire zone or border zone utility right-of-way and the critical benefit this practice has for our local ecosystem.”

DLC’s Vegetation Management team is committed to providing the highest level of service to our communities by helping maintain a sustainable, reliable electric grid. Promoting a healthy tree canopy that doesn’t jeopardize the safe, reliable operation of the grid helps bring DLC’s vision of a “clean energy future for all” to life.

Bird Lab has three study sites within the Pittsburgh region, including Hays Woods, which serves as its urban research site. The other two sites are both on private property. One in Upper St. Clair and the other at the Twin Stupas, an earthwork created by artist Angelo Ciotti.

The group will return to the Hays Woods banding station this fall to continue their research.

More information about DLC’s commitment to maintaining reliability while also helping to create a healthy environment through responsible vegetation management practices can be found here.

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About Duquesne Light Company

For more than 100 years, Duquesne Light Company has provided safe and reliable electric service to communities in southwestern Pennsylvania. Today, our core values of safety, integrity, dependability, equity and community enable us to serve more than 600,000 customers in two counties, including the city of Pittsburgh. We are committed to safely powering our customers’ lives while playing a leading role in our region’s clean energy transition. Our vision is to create a larger-than-light, clean energy future for all by delivering exceptional results today and boldly harnessing opportunities for tomorrow. In doing so, we can ensure a cleaner, healthier and more equitable community for generations to come.


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