Electricity itself plays a big role in why birds don’t get electrocuted while perching on high voltage electric wires. Remember that electricity will always flow along a direction with the least resistance and move best via conductors. While copper inside electric wires is a reliable conductor, birds are not. Thus, the energy ignores the birds and keeps moving along the wire, preventing these perching animals from getting shocked.
We are sure you are aware of the dangers. Chances are, you adhere to many rules at home and outside to avoid getting shocked. You don’t dare to touch outlets. You don’t plug-in your appliances near water sources. And, of course, you don’t climb electric poles.
However, you may have noticed perching birds defy those rules (and even squirrels) are able to stay along high-voltage electric lines. You may find them comfortably sitting, and at times, dozens to hundreds of them fill up these wires without getting shocked.
First, electrocution is injury or death due to an electrical shock. Since birds on high voltage wires don’t experience electrocution, this implies that they are not being shocked by electricity. Moreover, energy is able to flow through these birds without causing any damage.
So, how do birds exactly do that on a deeper perspective? First and foremost, birds are not great conductors. They are able to freely perch on high voltage power lines as electricity bypasses their body and flows through the wire instead.
Then, here comes resistance. Same with how water flows, electricity travels with the least resistance as possible. In electrical lines, energy can move along seamlessly as copper is a great conductor. Unlike with birds whose bodies are composed of tissues and cells, this anatomical structure serves as a much difficult route rather than the copper wire where it is already flowing. With that, it tends to ignore the bird’s body and keep on traveling the copper wire towards its destination.
Truth to be told, the same principle would apply to humans. A person would not be electrocuted on a power line if he hung suspended with both hands clinging onto the wires, but no grounding objects are present. Never ever dare to that, though, as there is some exception you should note!
While birds perching on high voltage lines seems to be essentially safe from the dangers of electrocution, things would be bad in case they touch wire and other objects simultaneously. If the other object happens to a wire having another voltage or an electric ground line, the difference between the voltages will allow the current to travel through the bird along the two lines. Same with water that flows from high elevation to low elevation, electricity also moves from a high voltage object to a low voltage matter. This is the reason why high voltage power lines are placed high in the air, with plenty amount of space in between them.
But, a bird, or any living being in that case, that keeps in contact with a wire, wherein the current is flowing from high to low voltage) and simultaneously keeps in contact with a ground metal matter that has no voltage, will be electrocuted. The scenario becomes possible as the presence of such things provides a path or direction wherein electricity can flow from the originating wire, through the body, and the object that has no voltage.
When electricity is able to travel through the body, electrocution happens, and any living thing may die. The outcome can vary depending on the overall amount of voltage present on the power line, and the duration the current passed through the body.
In conclusion, birds don’t get electrocuted on the power lines as they are not good conductors, they offer great resistance than the power cable, and electricity doesn’t flow through them. As long as birds don’t keep in contact with other things, such as the ground or another wire, you’ll see them perching comfortably while spotting worms for their meals!
- Bird (Wikipedia)
- Electrocution (Wikipedia)