Thayerbirding is supported by its audience. When you buy through our links, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

Why Do Birds Sit on Power Lines? – Discover 10 Reasons Why

Written by Clinton Atkins / Fact Checked by George Dukes

why do birds sit on power lines

Birds love to perch on high-voltage cables, often seen in groups. The common avian species that are fond of this practice are the songbirds. Their toes are designed for perching on thin lines such as wires and twigs. Plus, passerines have flexor tendons that allow them to have a steady stance while sitting on electrical lines.

But why do birds sit on power lines? They do so in order to groom themselves, hunt prey, rest, and roost.

Reasons Why Birds Sit On Electrical Cables

Hundreds of avian breeds perch on electricity cables at sunset, and at all hours of the day. And many times, you have wondered how can birds sit on power lines and not get electrocuted?

The thing is, when birds stand on a power cable, they are not touching the ground, so the flow of electricity is uninterrupted. Plus, passerines will only get shocked if they touch two electrical wires at once. That’s one reason why high-voltage wires are spaced apart.

So what birds sit on power lines? The lovely musically gifted avian species have a habit of sitting on power lines. And other bird species are known to do the same too. However, why are they up high on the wires and not roosting on tree branches?

Reason #1: Wait and hunt for prey

gather-on-power-lines

Birds sitting on a wire are not sight-seeing. They perch there to wait for prey so they have a better view of their next meal.

While standing on the power lines, the different avian species easily notice lizards, flies, moths, crickets, beetles, grasshoppers, and other insects.

In this sense, various passerine breeds sit on power wires for survival purposes. They can stay there for hours and feed. And without trees blocking their view, insectivorous birds always have their bellies full.

Reason #2: Keep safe from predators

When you see birds on wires, you probably do not give them a second thought. But the songbirds stay perched on the power cables to keep safe from the beast of prey.

Birds have many predators, and of course, cats, squirrels, raccoons, coyotes, and snakes cannot reach them up high.

And if hawks are after the smaller avians, then the unobstructed perching spot allows the passerines to see their predators. And then they can easily escape in flight.

Reason #3: Seeking warmth

In winter, you can see birds roosting on power cables, wondering if they would freeze to death. The fact is, the avian species perch on electricity wires when the season is cold for warmth. The high-voltage lines are a bit warm, and birds need a cozy spot to rest.

The frosty days and nights pave the way for creating a social circle for birds. They sit close together on power lines to preserve their energy and survive the winter months.

Reason #4: Preparing to migrate

perch-on-power-lines

The migratory avians gather on power lines to meet up before they form a flock and migrate to warmer locations. You’ll typically spot a large group of birds between summer and fall on power lines as they are getting ready to travel to a warmer climate.

The migration expedition is long, and birds usually do this as one major flock. And so they perch on high-voltage cables to wait for more birds to join them. When their numbers are quite high, they start their journey together.

Reason #5: Males attract female mates

stand-on-power-lines

During the breeding season, the male birds perch on power lines and sing their beautiful songs. They do this to attract potential mates. And at this time, you may notice that the avians are staying apart and not sitting close together.

Bear in mind that birds are territorial in nature, and they cannot stand competition while mating. The male passerines entice females through their songs, and they prefer to do that without other males nearby.

Reason #6: Socialization purposes

Outside the mating season, passerines stand on power lines to socialize. They are naturally friendly creatures. And when a new bird comes to the wire, the birds give way and move to provide enough space for their new friend.

Of course, this scenario only happens when they are not mating. Plus, avians love to stay together, sing as a group, and flock when migration time comes. Luckily, they do not get shocked in the process.

Reason #7: To rest

Dozens of passerines sit on electrical wires for the sole purpose of resting. They spend their day hunting for food, taking care of their young chicks, and simply surviving. And so they look for a place to rest where predators cannot reach them.

Up high on power lines, the avian species can roost for hours without any interruption. They can regain their energy while sitting on the electrical cable. And they have a lot of friendly birds to keep them company.

More importantly, thanks to the locking mechanism of their feet, the birds can sleep without falling.

Reason #8: Find safety in numbers

Many avian species congregate on power lines not only to avoid predators. They also do it to find safety in a large group of birds. When there are dozens, if not hundreds of avians on multiple stretches of power lines, their number can provide security for the passerines.

And so the birds feel safe when they are with other avians. If in case a flying predator comes for one of them, then the others can help by taking off with the target songbird. This action will surely spook the beast of prey, which leads to the birds’ safety.

Reason #9: Awaiting an event

Another simple explanation for why hundreds of avians roost in telephone wires is to wait for something to happen. They can see the world clearly, simply waiting for an event to unfold.

These occurrences can include a sunset, a sunrise, a storm, or anything else that happens. Birds could also be fascinated with flying planes, so they have front-row seats.

Additionally, the avian species may be fond of watching as humankind goes about their day.

Reason #10: Just because

Birds sitting on power lines are adorable to watch. And yes, there are a couple of reasons why they do so, but the passerines perch on electrical cables simply because they can.

All the avian species are built for roosting on thin wires. As long as they don’t touch another power cable while standing on one, they will be fine. And as the birds sit on power lines before storms, they watch out for each other.

Frequently Asked Questions

birds-on-wires

Now that you know the most common reason passerines like to sit on power cables, it’s time to check out the frequently asked questions of bird enthusiasts.

1. Why are there fewer birds sitting on electrical wires during breeding season?

When the breeding time comes, you’ll notice that birds don’t sit close to each other on the power lines. This is because they see other avians as contenders. They are looking for mates, and of course, they don’t want to share their spot.

And so, the males sit far from each other and sing to attract potential female partners.

2. Why are perched avians facing the same way when there’s strong wind?

You may notice that no matter how many birds are sitting on wires, they face the same direction. They face the flow of the wind since their forefront is denser than their rear.

And because of wind resistance, their feathers can seamlessly flap and not get caught in the wind.

3. What bird species are commonly seen on power lines?

The bird species that love to roost on electrical cables are American Kestrel, Eastern bluebird, Rock pigeon, Swallows, American robin, House finch, Mourning dove, Red-bird blackbird, and European starling.

4. Why do birds create space while standing on electrical cables?

Birds require enough room to spread their wings and fly. That’s why they sit together with enough space to take off. Also, spacing allows newcomers to land seamlessly. And more importantly, distance prevents aggression from rising in birds.

Conclusion

Birds are not electrocuted when they stand on power lines because they’re not a good conductor of electricity. They have reasons for perching on high-voltage cables, mainly for survival purposes.

And though it’s not all year round that you can see plenty of beautiful passerines on power wires, a few will always be seen on any given day. Thankfully, they’re safe.

In this post, we have answered the common question as to why do birds sit on power lines. We hope we’ve successfully satisfied your curiosity. Kindly share this post and let us know if you have new ideas.

5/5 - (3 votes)
Clinton-Atkins


Clinton Atkins

Author

Hi, I'm Clinton. Rocky and I became friends after a birdwatching trip with our new group. And we have been enjoying every adventure together. When he told me the idea of establishing a site that shares our experiences and fun, I immediately agreed. After trials and errors, here we have Thayerbirding.

You May Also Like

what bird eats ticks

What Bird Eats Ticks? – List of 7 Species (w/ Photos)

Ticks are tiny bugs that spark big fears. They are known to be carriers of ...

how to keep cats away from bird feeders

How to Keep Cats Away From Bird Feeders? – 7 Methods

Nothing better represents the connoisseurs of comfort and a fluff of sunshine more than a ...

how much does a talking parrot cost

How Much Does a Talking Parrot Cost? (Updated in 2022)

Are you planning on getting a cheap parrot? Then, you are probably searching for “how ...

how much does it cost to trim a bird beak

How Much Does It Cost to Trim a Bird Beak? (2022 Updated)

For birds to be healthy, they need a proper diet, a clean environment, and suitable ...

how to trim a bird's beak

How to Trim a Bird’s Beak Properly Without Hurt?

A bird’s beak is an essential part of avian species. Birds use them for many ...

why is bird poop white

Why is Bird Poop White? – 3 Main Reasons

Birds make our planet a little bit more melodic and colorful. These feathered friends are ...