Posted on the 17th April 2014

Fences – a friend or foe of birds? You can help us answer this!
Birds are killed each year when they collide with fences. Often these species are also of conservation concern, for example the Secretarybird and Blue Crane. We suspect many bird species, and even bats, come to a cruel demise when they are caught in fences, dying from broken legs and wings, or from dehydration. BirdLife South Africa has initiated a project to determine the extent of the problem in South Africa, and influence the future erecting of fences through a best-practice document.
Below is a photo of a Secretarybird caught in a fence on a farm near Koffiefontein (the bird was most probably a parent of a chick on a nearby nest). The bird collided or got entangled in a fence, dying of thirst, hunger and its injuries.
Although there is some information available about this problem, most of the information is based on anecdotal evidence or studies outside of South Africa. In order to make appropriate proposals, it is important to obtain a better understanding of this situation in South Africa. Some of the questions that need answers are the following:
·         Which bird species are killed through collisions with fences?
·         Why do these species collide with fences? The reason might be linked to their behaviour; for example, nocturnal species might be more affected than diurnal birds.
·         What type of fences poses the biggest risk to birds? Anecdotal evidence and studies suggest that barbed wire fences are the biggest problem, but this needs to be confirmed.
·         What environmental factors contribute to collisions? For example, a fence over a wetland might be more of a risk than one near a homestead.
BirdLife South Africa now requests members of the general public and birders to please submit information about birds caught in fences. These records can include historical sightings going back many years.
The data can be submitted in two ways. Information about the incident can be submitted by email to Ernst Retief ( The preferable method is to complete the following form on the BirdLife South Africa website: . A photo of the incident would be especially valuable and the photo can be submitted with the online form.
Based on the data collected during this project, solutions will be developed and a document published with the aim of lessening the impacts of fences on wildlife in general and birds in particular.
Thank you for supporting this project.
Ernst Retief









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