Communication Towers
Ecological Services
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photo of communication tower

The Fish and Wildlife Service's Branch of Conservation Planning Assistance, working in collaboration with the Divisions of Migratory Bird Management, Law Enforcement, and other Service personnel in field and Regional offices, developed a set of voluntary guidelines for the siting, construction, operation, and decommissioning of communication towers. The guidelines were developed from research conducted in several eastern, midwestern, and southern States, and were refined through Regional review. The voluntary guidelines are designed to assist tower companies in developing their communication systems in a way which minimizes the risk to migratory birds and threatened and endangered species. A Tower Site Evaluation Form was also developed to assist in the collection of proper information to be included in requests for consultations and to streamline the review process.

Service Guidance on the Siting, Construction, Operation and Decommissioning of Communication Towers

Tower Site Evaluation Form

A Communication Tower Work Group composed of government agencies, industry, academic researchers and NGO's was formed to develop and implement research that may yield additional information on ways to construct and operate towers to prevent bird strikes. As new information becomes available, the guidelines will be updated accordingly.

Tower Facts

  • Construction of communication towers (including radio, television, cellular, and microwave) in the United States has been increasing at an estimated 6 percent to 8 percent annually since development of the cellular telephone, and construction continues at a rate of approximately 1,000 towers per month. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) currently estimated the total number of towers at approximately 120,000.
  • Loss of migratory birds at communication towers is estimated at 4-5 million annually. Potentially impacted resources include 90 bird species which are threatened or endangered and 124 non-game species of management concern.
  • Lighted guy-wired towers taller than 199 feet above ground level (AGL), are particularly hazardous to migratory birds, especially night-migrating song birds. While lighting for towers taller than 199 feet AGL is required by the Federal Aviation Administration to avoid aircraft accidents, certain types of lighting may attract birds to the towers.
  • Lighted towers are particularly hazardous during periods of poor visibility caused by low cloud ceilings, rain, snow, or fog.
  • Documented cumulative losses of birds since 1955 number over 1 million.

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Last updated: April 29, 2013
Fisheries and Habitat Conservation
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