Birds on a Wire

Many bird species perch on wires from time to time but some are more likely to engage in that practice.  Among raptors, American kestrels are commonly spotted on power lines in open country, surveying the ground for large insects, small mammals or songbirds; screech and pygmy owls also hunt from power lines. Other permanent residents that frequently perch on wires include bluebirds, doves, robins, meadowlarks, rock pigeons and starlings; the latter may gather in large flocks, weighing down the line.

During the warmer months, swallows (all four species) often perch on power lines, forming large congregations as the fall migration approaches.  Among other summer residents and migrants that indulge in this practice are various flycatchers, kingbirds (especially the western species), upland sandpipers, hummingbirds, phoebes, indigo buntings, grackles and dickcissels.

While the above lists are not complete, accurate bird identification often involves knowledge of a species' preferred habitat and behavior.  Novice birders, confronted with the large diversity of birds in a guide book, tend to focus on their color and field marks, often overlooking clues related to location and activity.  Veteran birders, on the other hand, can usually identify common birds at a glance, based more on their silhouette, stance or flight style than on the details of their plumage.