Why can birds sit on power lines?

birds on a wire

Do you feel or think something frightening when you hear “electricity” or “ electrocuted”? You might have seen power lines on the roadside that are basically used to transfer electricity in large areas. Power lines are very visible and easy to notice for anyone. Human beings can get shocked if they subconsciously get in touch with power line not taking any safety measures. So, there are always some perils that run in our mind about this frightening safety issue.

Sometimes, we see birds sitting on the electrical wire and yet never appear to combust into feathers and puffs of black smoke like cartoons depict. Not a ruffled feather in site. How they can sit or stand on an electric wire and not receiving any electric shock?

Power lines are using alternating current (AC). For current to flow and pull amperage a ground or negative voltage needs to be present. Powerlines are separated and insulated from each to prevent voltage differential. A bird setting on a single wire is insulated from a voltage differential.

This type of question piques our attention since you know if you are to touch that wire yourself, you would likely receive a dangerous shock of electricity. So, what are the reasons behind the sitting of birds on an electrical wire? This article deals with that inquiry!


Before getting closed with the main analysis, it is better to be acquainted with few terms that are related to this topic and will be quite helpful for you to understand the description easily. Almost all of us are much or less familiar with the word “powerline” but do we really know what it exactly means. Let’s get into this at first.

Basically, (an overhead) powerline is a structure used in electric power transmission and distribution to transmit electrical energy across a large distance. It consists of one or more uninsulated electrical cables suspended by towers or poles.

Most of the insulation is provided by the surrounding air. There are many hurdles like buildings, tress, roads to cross over if one wants to provide the power lines on base. That’s why, overhead power lines are generally the least costly method of power transmission for large quantities of electric energy.

Electrocuted and Electrocution

Both electrocutions and electric shocks are serious injuries but one is much more severe than the other. Electrocutions refers to an accident with electricity in which a person died. Precisely, electrocution is death or severe injury by electric shock, electric current passing through the body.

If a person is electrocuted it means that he or she died via electric power.

Why Don’t Birds Get Shocked Despite Sitting On Electric Wires?

There are some rules and regulations that we, human beings, tend to follow to protect ourselves from the dangers of electric shocks. But what about the birds or animals? Do they really care about those rules?

The birds or animals do not care for those types of rules and regulations. They are carefree and are allowed to frolic or roam around. Sometimes, we notice that hundreds of birds sit on electrical wire and not receiving electric shocks. It may perhaps, all things seem blurry. The exact scenario might not be the same. Maybe, the birds get shocked but, nevertheless, it looks so perfect in our eyes!

Birds sit on a wire and if they do not touch the ground or anything in contact with the ground, electricity stays in the power line. But, if a bird touches a power line and equipment, or any material that is in touch with the ground, then, electricity gets paths to flow and the birds could be shocked.

Moreover, if a bird touches two wires at the same time, then it creates an electric circuit through which electricity can flow easily. And, there is a high possibility that the birds get electrocuted.

Reasons Behind This Bewildering Activity

Birds are able to sit on electrical power lines because the electricity flows through a reliable conductor whereas the bird is not that reliable. Electricity ignores the bird’s body and continues to travel through the wire instead of the bird’s body. A bird’s body is not a good conductor that can flow the electrons well.

In short, electricity works via electrons flowing through conductors. As we already mentioned that the birds are not a good conductors. Thus, it can be said that the birds do not allow the electricity to flow from the wire into their own body.

Electricity needs resistance to possible materials to flow. In electrical power lines, electricity flows along copper wires which is excellent conductor of electricity. It allows electricity to flow easily along its surface.

In contrast, a bird is made of cells and tissues. These cells and tissues do not provide an easy route for electricity to flow.

Moreover, Birds can perch on electrical lines because they do not conduct enough electricity to disrupt the current. Electrocution would occur if a bird touches two wires at the same time, a wire and the ground or a wire and a pole simultaneously.

However, sitting or resting birds are safe from shocks because they only cling to an individual power line most of the time. Though there are many unfortunate accidents of birds being electrocuted when they get tangled buy two of the wires altogether. 

Are Birds Shockproof?

Actually, it is not like that the birds are shock proof. The birds are not good conductor and do not supply the best route for electricity to flow. But as it is concerned about touching electrical lines and grounded materials at the same time and also it can cause a detrimental effect if a bird touches two wires simultaneously as well.

It can occur to human beings as well. If any living entity touches a wire in which current is flowing from high voltage to low voltage and at the same time it touches a grounded metal object, then, a human, animal, or bird gets the shock due to which it may die.

But, usually, it is seen that the birds perch on an individual power line. So, there is a sigh of relief and for that, we notice that birds do not get shocked by electricity.

How and Why Birds Perch?

Seeing birds on power line is not unusual. Basically, the types of birds we see on power lines are called “passerines” or “ songbirds’.Except for Antartica and some oceanic islands, Songbirds can be found on every landmass on the planet.

Songbirds have feet that are adapted to piercing on branches or twigs. Their feet do not have feathers. They contain one toe points backward while the other three-point forwards. There are flexor tenders that connect the bird’s leg and toes automatically flex and tighten when the bird lands on perch.

Birds land on perch, stand or sit without getting shocked- This is the topic we are having throughout the article. But, does it arise in your mind what is the point of sitting here (on the powerline)?—The answer is not so perplexing. Generally, birds need to go through a certain procedure in their life. For taking rest, sleeping, and preening themselves, birds need to pause and do those jobs.

Human Versus Electrical Shock

We have been talking about the bird’s tolerance of electricity and their ability to seat on power line and not getting shocked in return. But, when it’s time to talk about human tolerance, we need to stop and think it again. Electrocution brings detrimental effects to the individual involved that result in depression, tensions and beastly turmoil to the surroundings. So, precautionary methods should be introduced and followed for safety.

Does touching an electrical wire kill human? Of course it can, the answer should be considered to be Yes! Safety first!

Electricity flows from high voltage to low voltage. As human beings are in touch with ground while touching the electrical wire, electricity get chance to travel via the route( power line to human body). As a result, It electrocutes human body and the very person get shocked and in severe cases it can take the life away.

Final Thought

Coming to end, it is already clear and articulated why and how birds can perch on powerline without getting shocked. But, more safety concerns, it will come of no use if any individual practice or want to try it out at home using their own body part. Safety is your first priority. So, never ever make it worn out through such a childish glitch.


Afroza always liked to study English which led her to write, spreading knowledge for which she is only known to do. She also enjoys home gardening where she can add to her meal prep, and DIY crafts.

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