About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

What are those birds that sit on the wires?

When I stop at red lights I watch all the birds balancing on the telephone wires. What are the birds called and why don't these birds get shocked when they sit on high voltage lines?

If you are watching a mass of birds on the wires they are probably European Starlings. In 1890’s, 100 starlings were captured in England and released into New York City’s Central Park. It is said that Eugene Schieffelin wanted to capture and release all the birds mentioned in the plays of William Shakespeare.

Until that time, starlings were not native to North America. Scientists estimate that descendants from those original released flocks now number more than 200 million in the United States.
Adult starling males and females mature to a length of about 8.5 inches and weigh about 3 ounces. Starlings molt their feathers in the fall. The new feather tips are whitish, giving the bird “stars”. Over the winter sunlight and weather dulls the speckled look and the bird becomes uniform dark brown or black. Both sexes also have reddish brown legs, and seasonal changes in bill color (yellow in the spring, black in the fall). Males sport a bluish spot at the base of their beaks, while the female displays a reddish pink speck. Juvenile birds are large dull gray or black.
I think the main reason birds sit on high wires is because it’s a nice resting area. Power lines like trees, provide safe, high perches that allow smaller birds to survey the surrounding area for predators.
When birds are only in contact with one power line, they are not forming a complete circuit, so the electricity does not flow through them. Unfortunately, some larger birds, like hawks and eagles, have been electrocuted when they stretch their wings into another power line, completing the circuit
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