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???????Birds, hang out, power lines, D-FW, Texas, heads, skies

Why do birds hang out on power lines in D-FW? Curious Texas heads to the skies

At dusk, hundreds — if not thousands — of black-feathered birds fly together like rolling clouds before landing at their destination: a power line.

These birds congregate at intersections all over Dallas-Fort Worth. One popular spot in Dallas is at Greenville Avenue and Lovers Lane, which overflows with birds weighing down the lines and speckling the sky.

That’s why a reader asked Curious Texas: “Why do birds gather at intersections at dusk in D-FW?”

This is from February 5, Lovers at Greenville. pic.twitter.com/sfwJNUkH02

— Peter Griess (@pgriess) March 28, 2022

Sam Kieschnick, an urban wildlife biologist with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, said there are several reasons why birds do this, the first being that power lines offer a great vantage point for birds to check out their surroundings. High up on the line, there aren’t any branches or leaves getting in the way, he said.

“That’s a perfect lookout for potential danger or potential food,” Kieschnick said. “It’s a great way to see your neighbor, too.”

When birds gather at dusk, they tend to do so in large numbers and at intersections with lots of real and artificial light, Kieschnick said. He said bird experts call it a “roosting” activity.

“We think that they actually communicate with each other, so they’re squawking or chirping or making noises — there’s some mechanism of communication,” he said. “It’s like at the end of work, meeting at a pub or something and talking about the day, talking about what you’re going to do tomorrow — that sort of stuff. They’re congregating at these roosts to do that.”

The roosting spots aren’t random. Kieschnick said the birds have specific places they return to each evening. Some birds, such as grackles, will roost in grocery store parking lots or at any intersection where there’s light to see food, bugs and predators.

“Grackles, they have those communal rooms where they all kind of come back together each evening,” he said. “They also have that great light source, that artificial light source — that light source that helps them stay alive.”

Loop 288 in Denton pic.twitter.com/kQ0pRH4cSd

— Allegra Davis Hanna (@alwaysbteaching) March 29, 2022

One common myth about birds congregating on power lines is that electricity running through the wires is a heat source. Kieschnick couldn’t confirm or bust the myth, but he said the likely heat source would come from other birds huddled together.

While grackles are the most common bird to congregate at an intersection, pigeons, kingbirds, mockingbirds and blue jays are familiar species also known to hang out on the wires. Even predatory birds such as kestrels and hawks use power lines as a high tower to seek out prey, Kieschnick said.

Before birds could use the power lines to find food and observe the sunset, they were likely utilizing trees to do the same thing, Kieschnick said. The adaptation to urban life is a way “nature lives with us,” he said.

“I hope that if just for a moment we can look at the birds and appreciate and see these things that can still live here with us and that can live just as we live,” he said. “It’s pretty neat and worthy of appreciation.”

What should we investigate next?

Taken from www.dallasnews.com

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