Naturalists drew attention to an overlooked “detail” – some fires are caused by burnt birds that ignite after contact with power lines. A new American study was able to describe several cases for the first time.

World’s Wildfires

In 2014, a forest fire hit central Chile, destroying 2,500 homes and killing at least thirteen people. A year later, more than four thousand hectares were burned in Idaho, USA. Both fires had one thing in common: experts believe birds started them.

Wildfires can be caused by birds. Photo by Matt Palmer on Unsplash

Many intense fires hit the Northern Hemisphere of our planet in spring and early summer. In addition to the southwest of the United States, fires occurred beyond the Arctic Circle in Alaska and Europe – in Spain, France, and Germany. Even in these cases, some of the fires could have been caused by birds.

Birds often sit on power lines and can rest or hunt on them. Under normal circumstances, animals usually do not harm by touching the wires – as long as they do not close the electrical circuit – they would have to touch either another wire or the ground somehow.

Birds Can Cause Fires

If that happens, the birds catch fire and, according to a new study, can cause fires, especially if the ground below them is droughty. Scientists have described that this is happening and can be a threat in some areas. According to the most comprehensive analysis to date, more than three dozen fires broke out in this way in the United States between 2014 and 2018.

American and European countries suffer from fires. Photo by Marcus Kauffman on Unsplash

The authors of the study, led by Taylor Barnes, collected data on wildfires across the United States. They focused on reports that provided clear evidence that birds were the cause (photographs of burned bird carcasses, statements by experts and firefighters). The study authors found 44 reports of fires caused by birds. Twelve occurred in an ecological region from southern Oregon through California to northern Mexico.

Some fires are caused by natural influences – storm lightning. However, most fires are undoubtedly caused by humans – including those caused by birds as a human installs electrical wiring.

Source:, featured photo by Karsten Winegeart on Unsplash