A group of birds perched on a power line.

Why Do Birds Sit On Power Lines? (6 Reasons Revealed!)

Have you ever been to a place where there are power lines and observed some birds sitting on them? You might have wondered what they were doing or why they were not afraid of the electrical current that is flowing through it.

Tuning in to your curiosity about these questions, let’s get to the bottom of them. Be aware, though, some of these explanations might surprise you!

Why Do Birds Sit On Power Lines?

It’s a sign of ownership.

A bird perching on a power line usually indicates that it is the bird’s territory and that other birds should not trespass.

A territorial bird will perch on top of a wire to ward off intruders and frighten predators away from its nest. The bird might even dive at an intruder in an attempt to drive away any competitors for its territory.

It provides them with insulation

Another reason why birds sit on power lines could be to warm up their bodies.

Power lines offer protection from the cold, and are generally quite warm since electricity generates heat.

A group of birds may perch and huddle together to warm up during the cold winter season.

Related Articles: How Do Birds Stay Warm in Winter? (Detailed Answer)

It allows them to view potential threats or prey.

Many birds will use power lines as a perch to survey their territory and to keep an eye out for predators.

Many species of bird, such as the Eurasian Jay, northern shrike, red-eyed vireo, loggerhead shrike and golden-crowned kinglet will take advantage of this open space to view potential threats or prey that may approach them from below.

They will often watch intently for a potential meal, and use the power line as an early warning system for any encroaching predators.

Swallows on wire survey their territory and to keep an eye out for predators.
Image by TheOtherKev from Pixabay

It helps them find food.

Birds will often sit on the wire to spot their prey, and then swoop down to capture it with their beaks or claws.

This method is especially popular among raptors such as hawks and eagles who feed primarily on smaller animals like mice, snakes, lizards, frogs and insects.​​​​​​​ 

The red-tailed hawk uses the wires as a hunting platform, taking prey from below without ever landing. ​​​​​​​

They eat insects that are attracted by the electromagnetic field.

Birds perch along power lines because they love insects that are attracted by the electromagnetic field created by electrical lines.

The lines provide ideal locations for hunting insects like moths, flies and other bugs who are attracted to the energy emanating from a power line.

Some species sit on wires to clean themselves or preen.

Birds sit on wires to clean or preen themselves. The birds will typically use their beaks to pull out feathers, eat bugs, and clean their feathers with oil in order to keep them waterproof.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why don’t birds get electrocuted on power lines?

When birds are sitting on a wire, they are not touching the ground, so their bodies become part of the circuit. This means that the electricity must flow around the bird’s body and back into the wire.

If a bird touches another object, such as a tree or pole, it can complete the circuit and send electricity through its body. Birds can be seriously injured or even killed when this happens.

However, there is no danger to a bird as long as it keeps its feet on one electrical wire. If it touches two wires at the same time, however, it forms a complete circuit and will feel the shock of electricity.