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Why Can Birds Sit On Power Lines? Can They All Do It?

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Bird power line

Everyone has seen a whole flock of birds enjoying the sun while sitting calmly on the power lines, at least once in their life. This image can be unbelievable for people because if people were to touch that same electrical power line, they would get electrocuted. You are probably wondering how that is possible and whether birds possess some specials powers unknown to humans. While this sight is pretty strange and unbelievable, it must have a logical explanation.

In this text, we will research this peculiar mystery and see how this phenomenon can be possible and if there are any other animals with this mysterious power, like birds.

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Why do birds sit on power lines?

If you are wondering why birds can sit on power lines without getting electrocuted, you might want to know why they enjoy sitting on the power lines in the first place.

There are a few reasons why birds choose power lines as their spot to linger with other birds. Some birds may use this spot for resting, sleeping, getting warm, meeting with other birds, and some birds even use power lines for nesting. Birds tend to search for places to get more warmth during cold days. While their usual cooped-up spots may be a great solution, there is another solution for that; not that common, a bit strange, and very effective.

Power lines are always warmer than the surroundings because of the electricity flowing through. That makes them an ideal space for birds to rest when they get cold. They will stand on the warm power lines, and they will usually gather and stand close together in bigger groups. The height of the power lines also makes them a great escape spot from predators lurking from the ground.

One other reason for this strange habit of birds is that the height gives them a great point of view when searching for their next meal. Sitting on power lines gives them the advantage of being on a higher level, choosing their food carefully, without being noticed.

Birds have solid reasons for spending their time sitting on the power lines for hours during the day. You can always see a bird or two in your surroundings, no matter where you are, sitting calmly up there. They enjoy spending time in these strange places, cooped up against other birds, being warm and cozy.

birds sit on power lines

Image Credit: imagii, Pixabay

Why don’t birds get electrocuted when sitting on power lines?

Electricity is always looking for the easiest and fastest way to reach the ground. The closed circuit is created that travels from the power stations and goes into the ground again, through appliances. When a bird sits on the power line, it does not provide the electrical current with ways to reach the ground. The bird’s body is not a very good conductor, and therefore, the electrical current chooses to continue traveling through the power line. This whole process happens without affecting the bird in any way. The electrical current essentially ignores the small bird’s body because they are too far from the ground, and the circuit cannot be completed or grounded.

For example, if two different birds were to sit on two neighboring, adjoining lines, and if they were to touch their beaks or wings by mistake, they would be shocked immediately.

When medium-sized or large birds spread their wings, they can easily reach the distance between the energized and the grounded components of power poles, which will almost always lead to irreversible injury or death.

On the other hand, if the bird were to touch a tree or a utility pole with its wing, it would provide the electrical current with an ideal path to the ground. In this case, the bird would get electrocuted or shocked. You can try and imagine the physics behind this phenomenon in the easiest way possible; imagine that people could fly and be light like a bird or a small animal; the power lines wouldn’t affect us either then. The electricity would ignore our bodies and continue through the wire’s regular current.

bird Power line

Image Credit: TheOtherKev, Pixabay

Are all birds safe from electrical power lines?

Not all birds are safe from being electrocuted by power lines. This ongoing problem can kill as many as 11.6 million birds a year because of the poorly constructed and unsafe electricity infrastructure. The problem can even cause the extinction of some species of birds.

Many birds tend to collide with the power lines at an incredible speed during the flight because they do not have enough time to recognize the power lines as an obstacle. The problem is not always electrocution; most of the time, these birds are killed by the collision with the power lines. Medium-sized birds or large birds that are characteristic of flying low are the ones that are mainly in danger.

Some predictions are being set that, for example, the Cape Vulture species will be extinct in the next 25-30 years because of the mortality levels from the electrocution alone.eagle divider

Final Thoughts

In this article, we’ve answered the mystery behind birds’ remarkable ability to sleep on power lines as if it were nothing. Not all birds are entirely safe when sitting on power lines. You can read about which birds are safe from being electrocuted and which birds will be affected by the electrical current with a fatal outcome. Larger birds are the ones that are in danger when it comes to electrocution, and smaller birds can sit on power lines without any issues. You’ve read about how power lines pose a serious problem for many birds and that some species are even threatened to go extinct. 

People keep discovering new and incredible facts about birds, and birds keep surprising us with their new skills. This remarkable ability is a genuinely fascinating type of behavior to observe. As long as we discover exciting creatures and their habits and ways of living, we will also learn how similar we are to these animals and how strong the will to survive is for all beings equally.


Featured Image Credit: JanBaby, Pixabay

About the Author Robert Sparks

Robert’s obsession with all things optical started early in life, when his optician father would bring home prototypes for Robert to play with. Nowadays, Robert is dedicated to helping others find the right optics for their needs. His hobbies include astronomy, astrophysics, and model building. Originally from Newark, NJ, he resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the nighttime skies are filled with glittering stars.

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