I hear birds chirping more often when Im out taking a stroll this season.

The ones I see up in the trees could be “shijukara” (Japanese tits) or “mejiro” (Japanese white eyes). I get the feeling that the trees are happy to have these feathered visitors.

In providing perches, overhead power cables are just as vital as trees.

Ornithologist Osamu Mikami notes in his book “Denchu Choruigaku” (Utility pole ornithology) that while birds look as if they are just resting on power cables, there are reasons why they favor them.

For one, a cable provides a perfect vantage point, which is probably why sparrows and white wagtails use one to ensure their surroundings are safe.

When they bring food to their nests, they would first perch on a cable about 10 meters away to check if the coast is clear, according to Mikami.

For Japanese tits, the purpose of singing on a power cable is to make their calls heard over a long distance and show themselves to potential mating partners.

One theory has it that the birds may be warming their feet with subtle heat from the cable, but Mikami says there is no proof.

The new branch of ornithology Mikami has proposed holds promises.

Birds are considered to be descendants of long-extinct dinosaurs.

Even if we don’t go that far back in time, the appearance of utility poles and power cables began only about 150 years ago in the long history of birds.

Still, birds have not been outdone by humans in learning to make full use of them--as perches and nesting places.

Apparently, some people already use the expression “power cable birdwatching.”

With next to no progress seen in the heavily publicized projects to bury utility cables underground, we will still be able to watch our little feathered friends on electric wires across the sky for some time.

--The Asahi Shimbun, March 9

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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.