Why Do Birds Line Up On Telephone and Power Wires?

Flickr User Soroush Javadi // CC BY-SA 2.0
Flickr User Soroush Javadi // CC BY-SA 2.0 / Flickr User Soroush Javadi // CC BY-SA 2.0

Birds are majestic creatures, blessed with the enviable ability to take flight. So why do they spend so much time lounging around on power or telephone wires?

Ken Picard of Vermont's Seven Days reached out to wildlife biologist Mark LaBarr for answers. LaBarr, who is a program manager at Audubon Vermont, says there are a couple reasons why telephone wires become avian hang-out spots. For falcons and other predatory birds, the wires offer obstruction-free viewing of the prey below. Tree branches, meanwhile, pack sightlines with thick foliage.

Some species also love to meet up on the wires before they embark on seasonal migrations. That's why during late summer and early fall you'll notice wires packed with birds—they're slowly preparing to take the long trip south together.

LaBarr says that many types of birds steer clear of high wires during breeding season because, as singles hitting the bar scene can attest, it's harder to find a mate when you're standing right next to your competition. However, the wires don't hurt every species of bird when it comes time to procreate. As Miyoko Chu, director of communications for the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, told The New York Times, “In spring, male songbirds may perch and sing on a wire, all the better to be seen and heard by potential mates." Play to your strengths, in other words.

[h/t Seven Days]