It’s amazing what bird seed can do … like being the reason behind power outages in a North York condo building.
A note from Vladimir Rabinovitch, who lives near Bathurst Street and Steeles Avenue, outlined how pigeons perching on electrical lines have repeatedly cut power to his home.
It underscored a vexing problem: bird lovers who scatter copious amounts of seed on the ground, attracting pigeons and other fowl that line the wires above their feeding ground.
I’ve written about pigeons before, with the focus on how they poop on whatever is below, coating sidewalks with messy droppings and provoking outrage from people who’ve been hit by their wet, smelly bombs.
But it’s the first time I’ve heard about birds roosting on wires in such large numbers that the sum total of their weight causes one wire to touch another, triggering a short that cuts power to nearby buildings.
“Around McDonald’s, (on Bathurst, just south of Steeles), somebody has been dumping bags of bird feed on city property and pigeons have been feeding there,” said Rabinovitch. “Sometimes there are hundreds of them.
“I live in the area and last week in my condo, hydro was interrupted three times in just one day, multiple days in a row.
“We placed a call to Toronto Hydro. After an investigation they determined that it was the hundreds of pigeons sitting on hydro wires which caused the wires to touch each other and trip, causing the switch to disconnect and us to lose power.
“Their recommendation is to investigate who is feeding the birds and let the city know, as they do not have resources to do so.
“What can we do? Track down this person and confront them when we catch them? Call police? We did call the city but no help there.”
I went there and found lots of bird seed scattered in several spots near the sidewalk, which is part of the road allowance and city property. A bylaw prohibits feeding animals, including birds, in city parks, but not on other city property.
Even if municipal bylaw enforcement stakes out the scene until they catch the feeder — there aren’t nearly enough enforcement officers to do that — they don’t have authority to lay charges.
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To put it bluntly, the rules don’t allow the city to have the backs of people affected by pigeon-related power outages because they have no authority to lay charges.
STATUS: Russell Baker, a spokesperson for Toronto Hydro, confirmed by email that “many of the recent outages (in that area) were related to a large number of pigeons sitting on power lines, sometimes resulting in wires coming into contact with each other, causing momentary outages. Much like the breakers in a home, auto re-closures are designed to protect our electrical distribution system in order to avoid more extensive damage that would lead to longer power outages. An auto re-closure occurs when the station breaker detects a fault current and automatically opens, then recloses. This allows for power to be restored very quickly, as in the case of animal or tree contact. Although we recognize that these outages are inconvenient, they are necessary to prevent more significant outages.”