QUESTION: Why don’t birds get electrocuted when they perch on power lines without being electrocuted?
The answer requires digging a little deeper into the science of electricity.
In order for an electrical charge, or electrons, to move from one spot to another, it must be in contact (or sometimes close proximity) with conductive material that has at least two different points of potential. Electrons will move toward lower potential. That is why it is said that electricity is always looking for a path to ground (lower potential).
A bird remains safe because it is sitting on a single wire and is at one point of contact—and consequently one electrical potential. If the bird sitting at this one potential was to also make contact with another object of different potential, that bird would be completing a path to ground, causing severe electric shock or electrocution. For larger birds with wider wingspans, reaching and touching another cable is a real hazard.
Getting near overhead power lines is also a serious hazard for people. Loup employees who work near overhead power lines must wear appropriate safety clothing and use safety equipment. It is vital that safety equipment is regularly tested as even non-conductive materials, such as rubber, wood, or plastic, can conduct electricity if damp, dirty, or damaged.
Loup Power District encourages everyone to be aware of their surroundings and shares the following safety tips:
- Always look up and look out for overhead power lines.
- Keep yourself and any tools or equipment a minimum distance of 10 feet away from power lines in all directions at all times.
- Remember that getting too close to a power line, even without touching it, is very dangerous.
- Avoid working directly under power lines.
- When working with tall equipment such as ladders, poles, or antennas, carry them in a horizontal position to avoid contact with overhead lines.
- Always assume that power lines, even if they have come down, are live and carry an electrical charge.
To learn more about electrical safety, visit SafeElectricity.org.