A power outage that left more than 10,000 Santa Fe customers without electricity Thursday morning was caused by a crow, Public Service Company of New Mexico determined.
The wingspan of the crow — which was killed in the incident — was probably long enough to touch a 46,000-volt line at a transformer station in the Zia Road area, PNM spokesman Ray Sandoval said.
“It was a fluke accident,” Sandoval said. “Birds land on wires and poles all the time. This guy — the way he landed or took off, his wingspan allowed him to touch wires that shouldn’t be touched, and his body was the conduit.”
The outage, which affected much of the downtown area, began just before 7:30 a.m. and lasted about 45 minutes before PNM crews rerouted power at a switching station near Fort Marcy Ballpark.
PNM’s website showed more than 20 power outages around the city Thursday morning. Sandoval said such incidents are very rare. “It does happen every once in a while, and it’s usually the wingspan,” he said.
Ken Bunkowski, who runs Birds Unlimited and writes a column on birds for The New Mexican, said birds know how to navigate power lines and poles.
“Typically, if they are just sitting on power lines, there’s no issue,” he said. “If they get into a substation or transformer where they can touch one of the power cables there, it will short it out. That does happen.”
He said such incidents usually are caused by “a larger bird, like a raven or a crow or a hawk. The smaller birds, no, I don’t think that would be an issue with them.”
Touching a transformer line “definitely will kill the bird,” Bunkowski said.
Birds also can cause temporary outages when excrement falls as they take flight from a transformer and lands on electrical components, including “strings of ceramic and polymer insulators that keep energized wires safely separate from one another,” New Orleans-based power company Entergy reported in 2021.
Sandoval said PNM crews were working on the transformer station affected by the errant crow.
All that was left of the bird was a pile of dust, he added.
“It was a pretty gruesome sight,” Sandoval said.