Have you ever seen birds perched on power lines along the roadway, waiting for cars to pass by? A row of pigeons or doves happily lined up along a wire may come to mind as an image. We’ve been taught not to touch an electrical wire because we know that electricians go to great lengths to ensure their safety, and we’ve always been told not to do so. How do birds avoid being electrocuted while sitting on power lines? What is their secret? They seem to be doing just fine hanging out on the wires all day.
HOW DO BIRDS SIT ON POWER LINES WITHOUT GETTING ELECTROCUTED?
To put it another way, since their bodies are poor conductors of electricity and they are just touching the wire, not forming a circuit with another low voltage item, birds can perch on electric wires for two reasons.
Let’s look at these two claims a little more closely. Don’t be concerned, we’ll keep things simple.
The movement of electrons is what electricity is. Electrons flow through a wire from a source to an endpoint, creating power in the process. As a result, we call the movement of electricity a “current.” Consider it like a river’s flow of water. The nature of the material used to make an item determines how easily electrons may pass through it.
Wood, for example, has a extremely low energy transference rate, hence the poles that support electrical power lines are generally made of wood. Electricity flows easily through copper and most metals, making them excellent conductors. To insulate against the electricity’s power, a non-conductive material may be utilized in certain cases.
Because electrons can pass through copper so readily, electric wires are made of it. Birds, on the other hand, have low electrical conductivity in their bodies. Electricity isn’t well-conducted in their body, especially not as readily as it is in a copper wire.
Electricity will take the path of least resistance. This signifies that the route with the least amount of energy is taken. The electrons will continue to travel along the path of least resistance, which is the highly conductive copper wire, rather than the poorly conductive bird, thus one of the reasons the bird remains unaffected by electricity.
ENERGY MOVES FROM HIGH TO LOW
Just half of the tale is whether or not the birds’ body is conductive. From high voltage to low voltage (high energy to low energy), electricity is also looking to travel. Electricity will seek to flow from high to low voltage, just like water will always flow downhill and a hot cup of coffee will always cool. The ground is the area where there is minimal or no voltage in birds on the wire. As a result, the electrons are investigating a path from the high-voltage wire to the low-voltage ground.
Only the power line is touched by birds sitting with both feet on it. The electricity has no pathway to the ground through the bird, no pathway to a lower-voltage object through the bird, and sticks to the copper wire because both feet are resting on equal voltage. Because there is no need for electricity to flow through the bird, it can sit on power lines without fear and even sing.
The bird, on the other hand, may be creating a bridge where the energy would want to flow if it had one foot on a wire and another on a lower-voltage object.
When a lot of energy passes through the body, it causes injury (or even death). The electrons would use the bird’s body as a bridge if one foot of the bird were on a power line and the other foot on the ground or another wire with a lower voltage. Energy will travel readily through the body if it is a path to a lower-voltage object, even though the bird’s body is technically a poor conductor.
So if you don’t keep both feet on the same wire, birds may be electrocuted.
WHAT ABOUT HUMANS?
So birds are allowed as long as they just touch a single power line and nothing else, right? Humans have the same situation, don’t they? Yes, the same rules apply. Theoretically, a person would not be electrocuted if they hung from or sat on a power line and their whole body was merely touching that power line.
This is typically not feasible for us since we can’t fly. A human might need to climb a pole or utilize a bucket truck or ladder in order to work on a power line. In addition to the line, they will have to use tools and possibly touch many other items. Therefore, they must make sure to either turn off the power in the area where they are working or to use insulating materials (such as thick rubber) that will not allow electricity to enter their body when they are exposed.
THE DANGER OF POWER LINES
Since copper wire is such a good conductor, most power lines use it. Nevertheless, no power line is just an exposed section of copper wire, as you may tell if you’ve ever examined one. It would be far too dangerous to use a bare wire. A plastic or rubber cover is used to insulate all power lines.
This doesn’t imply that electricity can’t pass through that coating, nor does it imply that power lines are safe. If you touch them, the current can still affect you. It’s best to assume that any power line is dangerous and to keep away from it at all costs.
It’s unlikely that a bird will be electrocuted while perched on a power line. The electricity in the line has no reason to pass through their body as long as both feet are sitting on the same line and they aren’t touching anything else.
Birds aren’t immune to electrocution, but they aren’t susceptible to it either. As we mentioned, if they make a mistake, they can be shocked and killed in the same way that we would be if we handled power incorrectly. They’ve just landed in the safest possible seat! Or maybe they are just plain lucky, as opposed to being smarter than we think.