Hazards to Birds from Electricity


Electrocution is a lethal passage of electricity through a living body,
resulting in muscle spasm, burns, shock, cardiac arrest and death

Mock up of CU2 Jimmy tragically electrocuted on 11 May 2015 when he perched
on an end power pole at Hiraeth cottage, nr Pentrefoelas, Conwy, North Wales.

mock up of Jimmy electrocuted at the 'killer pole', Hiraeth cottage, north of Pentrefoelas

Electrocution is usually performed by a ground fault (2. below) caused by the bridging of live conductors and earthed components (poles, pylons). The greatest danger is from medium voltage lines / poles where the phase shift distances are small, so that the birds settling can cause a short circuit or ground fault. Particularly dangerous are crossbars with upstanding pin insulators.


Electricity will only flow where there is a potential (voltage) difference.

Touch 2x live parts

Line drawing of a bird contacting 2 pin insulators ? Universidad de Barcelona

Here the bird's wings create a short circuit
for the electricity to flow through connecting
2 pin insulators or 2 live wires.

line drawing of a bird touching 2 parralel lines with it's wingtips with another small on safe on just one wire ? Universidad de Barcelona

Touch 1x live + 1x grounded part

Line Drawing of a bird contacting one live wire and a grounded metal part ? Universidad de Barcelona

The lethal current routes from energised wire
through the bird's body to ground.

Credit for excellent diagrams:
Universidad de Barcelona

The result is a violent death from muscle spasm, cardiac arrest and severe burns:

an electrocuted owl and CU2 Jimmy's burnt talons

In some areas of the world the problem has reached catastrophic proportions:

2x images of electrocuted Bonelli's Eagles, one in Sudan, one in Spain

Bonelli's Eagle's numbers have dropped drastically. Left, electrocuted in Sudan. Right, in Spain

Some species driven to the verge of extinction:

2x images of electrocuted White Stork, Bulgaria

White Stork numbers have reached a critical low, here one seen electrocuted in Bulgaria

mass electrocution of migrating flamingos after new power line installed from main land to the islnad

Killing Ground: Mass electrocution of Flamingos on Khadir Island, Gujarat
Photo R.D.Meriya: 8am November 20, 2011

HIgh Risk Factors / increasing the probability of bird electrocution