Ludwig’s Bustard Neotis ludwigii, endemic to Africa’s south-west arid zone, is susceptible to collisions with overhead power lines. Limited data from the south-eastern part of its range suggest that this factor may threaten its survival. We estimated transmission line collision rates for Ludwig’s Bustard across its South African range to assess the effect of this mortality on the population. Conservatively, collision rates averaged at least 0.63 ± 0.12 fatal collisions per km of transmission line per year, with relatively little regional variation. Despite being less abundant, the larger males were more collision-prone than females, which might account for the female-biased population. Extrapolating collision rates across the range of the species suggests that 4,000–11,900 birds are killed annually on high-voltage transmission lines. Actual mortality on overhead lines is probably much greater, given biases in carcass detection (crippling, scavenging and habitat biases), as well as the fact that our estimate excludes mortality on lower voltage distribution lines and telephone wires. Given an estimated global population of 56,000–81,000 birds in the late 1980s, the demographic invariant method suggests that such mortality is unsustainable. This result supports the recent upgrading of the conservation status of Ludwig’s Bustard from ‘Least Concern’ to ‘Endangered’, and highlights the need for further research on this problem.