Have you ever looked up at a power line with birds spanning across it and asked yourself how they can do that and not get electrocuted? You’re not the first to ponder this! Here’s a quick explanation from your friends at KPUB on how our feathered friends can perch comfortably without shocking consequences.
Birds do not get electrocuted when they sit on power lines, simply, because they cannot touch the ground and the power line at the same time. For an electrical shock to occur from a power line, the electricity needs a conductor to help it find the fastest and closest way to travel to the ground. This is why electricity conductors, such as electric poles, are in the ground.
Birds that perch on power lines are not earthed, nor are their bodies good conductors. While a bird is sitting high in the air on a power line, the electricity is going to choose the path of least resistance through the wire. This electricity will eventually go through lots of wires to reach its final destination, which could be lighting your home, warming your oven, or cooling your refrigerator.
However, if a bird were to have one foot on one power line and the other on another line or the pole, the bird would be electrocuted. This is because the electricity can flow more easily through the bird to jump from line to line or from the line to the ground.
In addition, big birds, such as owls and hawks, are more likely to get electrocuted than small birds. This is due to their wingspan being much larger than a small bird’s, and they are far more likely to touch two wires are they are landing or taking off.