Information and Technology Report 1999-0001



Power lines and power poles present a potential electrocution hazard to wild birds. Many birds, especially raptors, select power poles for perching, and, sometimes, for nesting (Figs. 50.1–3). If a bird’s appendages bridge the gap between two energized parts or between an energized and a grounded metal part, electricity flows through the “bridge” that is filling the gap and the bird is electrocuted.

Most commonly, birds are electrocuted where conducting wires (conductors) are placed closer together than the wingspan of birds that frequent the poles (Fig. 50.2). Feathers are poor electrical conductors, but if contact is made between points on the skin, talons, or beak, or if the feathers are wet, conduction can occur. Common anatomical sites of contact include conduction between the wrists of each wing or between the skin of one wing and a foot or leg. The resulting shock causes severe, usually fatal, cardiovascular injury.

Because conductors on distribution lines are placed closer together than high voltage transmission lines, birds are more frequently electrocuted on distribution lines despite their lower voltage.

In addition to one to three conductors, power poles may also carry ground wires, transformers, or grounded metal crossarm braces. Complicated wiring configurations that put multiple energized and grounded metal parts near attractive perching or nesting sites are the most hazardous configurations (Fig. 50.3).

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype Federal Government Series
Title Electrocution
Series title Information and Technology Report
Series number 1999-0001
Year Published 1999
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) National Wildlife Health Center
Description 4 p.
Larger Work Type Report
Larger Work Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Larger Work Title Field manual of wildlife diseases: General field procedures and diseases of birds
First page 357
Last page 360
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