When I walked through the fields the other day, I noticed all the birds were sitting on the power cables but facing in the same direction. I know I am not the only person to wonder why they do this, and many observant bird watchers or motorists may have wondered the same.
Birds facing in the same direction usually are facing the wind. Birds weigh more at the front and are lighter at the back, so this helps wind resistance. Because the heaviest part of their bodies is facing forwards into the breeze, they suffer less wind resistance than they would if their sides or back were facing the wind.
Seeing dozens, sometimes even hundreds, of birds lined up on a power cable is a familiar sight to many people worldwide. However, the next time you see them, you may notice that they are all sitting in the same direction. This is common for birds, and once you see it, you will notice it all the time. If you want to know more, please read on.
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Birds take off from their perch into the wind, so birds congregate on power lines facing into the wind so that they are ready to fly away at any time.
Because all the birds on a power line could be startled simultaneously, facing in one direction can save a lot of confusion and collisions. By all facing the same way into the wind, each bird will fly off the cable in the same direction, which will avoid any aerial mishaps.
A bird’s feathers do not get ruffled by facing into the wind, and they can keep warm. This allows them to rest while on power cables while still being able to fly away at a moment’s notice.
If there isn’t much wind, you are likely to see birds lined up on a power cable facing different directions as they don’t have to battle against the wind.
Some other questions may have occurred to you when wondering about birds and their habit of perching on power cables. We will address some of the most frequently asked questions below.
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Why do birds sit on power lines?
Birds can derive a surprising number of benefits from sitting on power lines. There are various reasons that birds so often choose to rest on them. These include the following:
Power Cables provide a Great Vantage Point.
One of the reasons birds sit on power cables is because the height allows them to rest while having a good view of the ground below them. It supplies a great vantage point for birds which are looking for food.
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They provide Birds with a little extra warmth.
Birds can also enjoy the extra warmth that power lines supply them, particularly during winter. When cold weather rolls in, birds like to gather closely to keep warm, and power cables provide extra heat due to the electricity flowing through them. Now that you know this, you may notice that more birds are gathered on power lines during the winter.
Birds can stay safe from predators.
Birds can keep safe while resting and conserving energy, far up above predators such as foxes, cats and other terrestrial predators.
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Cables provide a great vantage point when foraging for food.
When birds are sitting high up on a power line, they have the advantage of an unobstructed view of the ground below them. They do not have their sightline obstructed by branches and foliage, which can block their view when they are in trees. This clear view of the ground allows birds to spot food sources such as fruit trees and nuts, and with their keen eyesight, even insects.
They can serve as a gathering point before birds migrate.
Sometimes large flocks of birds will gather along a cable wire during the end of summer and the start of autumn. These flocks are gathering before they set off on their migratory journeys. Power cables are a handy location where birds can gather in considerable numbers, be safe from land predators and enjoy the little bit of extra heat the electric cables provide.
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Why don’t birds congregate on power cables during breeding season?
Large groups of birds sitting along power cables are a less likely sight during the bird breeding season. Birds don’t want to perch close to their competition during this period.
However, it is common to see male birds perched on their own on cable wires during this time. The cables provide a perfect place for birds to be seen and heard by potential mates.
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Why don’t birds get electrocuted when sitting on power lines?
The electricity flowing through power cables is always looking for the quickest way to travel from A to B. Small birds are usually safe from this for two reasons:
Bird’s bodies are not good conductors of electricity.
Birds perching on a power line with their two feet are not part of the electric circuit.
Birds do not attract any electricity nor offer an alternative route for the power to travel. The electricity continues the path of least resistance along the wire without disturbing the birds.
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Are larger birds more likely to get electrocuted?
Larger birds, such as hawks and owls, are more likely to be electrocuted when they perch on power cables. This has to do with the size of the bird and the way they stand on the wire. If a larger bird brushes their wing against the cable, a circuit is created from the wing to the bird’s feet. This causes the bird to suffer electrocution. The same thing happens if one leg touches a wire and the other the wooden power pole. Larger birds are also more likely to rest on two wires, creating a circuit.