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Death Defying High Wire Act

Death Defying High Wire Act

By Bill Willis

February 15, 2017

Birds sitting on a power line
Birds sitting on power lines along Hopson Road.
Photo courtesy of Bill Willis

Although most of the modern power lines (including those on campus) are routed underground, the feeder lines along Hopson Road are above ground overhead. Birds find these perches a good place to scope out the area. Have you asked yourself how they do it safely? The following may come as no shock to some, as birds have been perching on power lines for as long as power lines have been above ground.

Electricity is the movement of electrons along a conductor such as a copper wire. Since copper is a very good conductor with low resistance, electricity follows that route from high voltage to low voltage areas.

Birds sitting on a high voltage wire do not create a path of lower resistance than the wire itself. With both feet only a short distance apart, and having the same electrical potential, electrical current safely bypasses the birds. This means they can sit on the wires without any impact, even in the rain. It would be a different situation if the bird were to touch a grounded object (such as a wooden pole) or another wire or a bird sitting on a wire of a lesser voltage. His goose would be cooked, lesson over.

Just because it’s for the birds doesn’t mean it’s for the rest of us. At home, make sure the power is off before working on electrical circuits!

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