Do the Safe Thing
Science Concepts
Zapped! Activities
Fantastic Facts


Science and Safety of Electricity and Natural Gas Games
World of Wires  

Power Line Safety: It’s for the Birds


The California condor can soar almost 4600 meters above the earth. It has a wingspan of up to 3 meters—nearly twice your height! Because of this broad wingspan, power lines are a serious hazard to condors.

Small birds can sit safely on one power line. They don’t touch the ground, or any other grounded object, so electricity stays in the power lines and doesn’t harm the birds. Condors, with their broad wingspan, are likely to touch a power line and pole at the same time and become a path for electricity to travel down the pole to the ground. Or, their large wings can bridge two power lines at the same time, creating a short circuit. In either situation, the birds are electrocuted.

Condors have a slow rate of reproduction, which is one reason they nearly went extinct. Power line contacts haven’t helped matters.

In 1979, only 25 California condors were left and efforts began to save them. Scientists at the Los Angeles Zoo developed a program to train captive condors to avoid power poles before they are released into the wild. A perch that looks like a power pole delivers a mild shock to any bird that touches it. The birds learn to land somewhere else.

Most condors that have graduated from the shock training program successfully stay away from power lines. Today, about 208 condors are living—76 of them in the wild.


Use these links to visit another section of the site.

The Body Electric
The Body Electric
  The World of Wires
The World of Wires
  Dangerous Waters
Dangerous Waters
  You've Got the Power
You've Got the Power
  Fire in the Sky
Fire in the Sky