Do you ever see birds sitting on a wire and wonder how they do not get electrocuted?
Small birds are able to perch on powerlines and not get electric shocks becasue they are not in contact with the ground or any other conductive element that is in contact with the ground. This means the electricity doesn’t have a new complete circuit and would stay in the powerline they are standing on.
When you look at larger birds, such as eagles, they are large enough to create new circuits when they touch a line and other conductive elements, such as a second line or a part of a transformer. This can happen when they try to fly between two wires or when they land or take off from the top of a pole. Transformers also pose another danger when birds try to nest on them and accidentally create a short circuit between two lines.
Depending on the current of the line, a bird may die on impact, lose limbs, or present with a tiny entry and exit wound. Even if it looks less severe, the tiny wounds can progress to larger issues due to the vascular damage. This can result in wingtip edema, damaged feather follicles, loss of function in the wing tips or feet, and even eventual loss of an extremity. They may even have unseen damage to their internal organs.
An electrocuted Bald Eagle who died on impact.
Treating electrocuted raptors is not an easy task due to the unseen damage and the variety of issues electrocution can cause. Sadly, many are too seriously injured and do not make it. However, we have successfully treated and released electrocuted raptors and always try when reasonable!
How You Can Help
We track all electrocuted raptors that come into us and work closely with BC Hydro to record all incidents so that they can make improvements to their power poles and infrastructure. They add bird diverting triangles to discourage perching between lines and/or add raised perches that allow the birds to perch up above the wires.
If you find a raptor that you suspect was electrocuted, please call us so we can get a record of the bird and the location it was from.