Wind Turbines Hardly Rank as Bird Threat

April 24, 2014



Pity the birds.

As if cats weren’t bad enough, humans have invented all sorts of torture devices for our winged friends. We’ve paved over their nesting sites to make room for Olive Gardens and have broken up their skyscapes with glass buildings and radio towers.

Then came the most infamous bird killer of all: the wind turbine. As you can see in the chart below, these sky blenders top the list.


Just kidding. Windmills aren’t the biggest serial killer, but are instead the smallest threat to birds worthy of mention, on par with airplanes. Turbines are responsible for as little as one percent of the deaths caused by the next smallest killer, communications towers.

You would hardly know this by reading Twitter or scanning the comments on any news article about wind power. Here’s a sampling from the gaggle of bird commenters on thestory I wrote a few weeks ago about broken records in U.S. wind power:

“I assume a record number of bats and birds will be killed again.”

“Wind is OK for some areas. A lot of birds will get wiped out though. Then we will see what happens.”

“How many bats and birds did they slaughter this year?”

“Mass murdering devices”

The estimates above are used in promotional videos by Vestas Wind Systems, the world’s biggest turbine maker. However, they originally came from a study by the U.S. Forest Service and are similar to numbers used by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Serviceand the Wildlife Society — earnest defenders of birds and bats.

No matter whose estimates you use, deaths by turbine don’t compare to cats, cars, power lines or buildings. It’s almost as if there’s been a concerted effort to make people think wind turbines are more menacing than they actually are.

This perception can delay project permitting. An expansion of the world’s largest offshore wind farm was recently scrapped after the U.K. would have required a three-year bird study. Only recently did the U.S. Interior Department loosen restrictions on wind farms, which according to the Wildlife Society kill dozens of federally protected eagles and about 573,000 birds a year. Other manmade killers take out almost a billion.

Be warned: bird deaths from wind turbines are likely to increase as wind power continues to break new records. Also, turbines keep getting bigger, and as you might expect, a massive bird of prey like the Bald Eagle is more likely to get into a tangle with a 700-foot-tall turbine than a housecat. Bald Eagles, for goodness sake!

It’s nice for wind-farm planners to take migration patterns and endangered habitats into account. But even if wind turbines were to double in size and provide 100 percent of our energy needs (both of which defy the laws of physics as we currently understand them), they still wouldn’t compare to the modern scourges of high-tension power lines or buildings with glass windows. Not even close.

The alternative to renewable energy sources like wind and solar is to burn ever more fossil fuels. Animals are threatened by those, too, including North America’s most common hairless mammal: the human. Roughly 20,000 of these moderately-intelligent animals die prematurely each year from air pollution from coal and oil, according to a study ordered by Congress.

Pity the humans.

10 Responses to “Wind Turbines Hardly Rank as Bird Threat”

  1. dumboldguy Says:

    It all comes around to the same thing. Too many humans living a life style that “kills” too many things on the planet, including other humans. And being too self-centered and full of hubris to see the forest for the trees merely seals the deal.

  2. Someone spreading the myth of bird deaths? I think we have an idea of who might be funding that. Irony is that more wind turbines, renewables, and less of every other Conventional generation would do more to save birds.

    • dumboldguy Says:

      It’s not a “myth” that wind turbines kill birds—-they do—-and will likely kill more as the number of turbines increases. As you point out, it’s just a straw man being used by the fossil fuel interests. And I will repeat, no matter how you slice it, it is MAN that is killing most everything through his “works”, and in ways that must add up into the many hundreds by now.

  3. Sir Charles Says:

    Here an excerpt of a former video from Peter: Wind turbines and birds

  4. redskylite Says:

    El Hierro Island now powered by 100% renewable energy.

    “El Hierro’s hydro-wind plant does have a lot more value. It is serving as a role model for renewable energy projects in other isolated communities. Similar projects are under consideration in the Greek islands of Icaria and Crete, and Portugal’s Madeira.

  5. […] 2014/04/24: PSinclair: Wind Turbines Hardly Rank as Bird Threat […]

  6. […] a cushy job Are We “Falling Behind” on Engineers and Scientists? Neanderthals Are People, Too Wind Turbines Hardly Rank as Bird Threat Single-Cell Genomics Reveals Hundreds of Coexisting Subpopulations in Wild […]

  7. Once again, this site will say nothing bad about the biggest countryside invasion Man has concocted. It’s like the classic 3 monkeys; see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil when it comes to these gorilla sized machines. Much bigger than gorillas, of course. Don’t ever mention studies that conflict with the industry line and show under-reported death counts or removal by scavengers. Be sure to mock sites like this as anti-progress: Clearly a bunch o’ coal executives pretending to care about birds. How could anyone not like 400-foot towers screaming in the sun and obliterating views? Those stupid birds and bats just need to adapt to our beautiful, green future!

    There’s something about wind turbines that makes people either complete zealots, blind to all criticism, or viscerally opposed to them. The middle ground might be spineless people who are afraid to give opinions on much. I can’t see any sincere environmentalists being in the pro-camp because they’d have to pretend that wind turbines barely exist. This assumes that sincere environmentalists like to look at natural scenery, or what’s called bucolic landscapes, like the kinds that inspired classic paintings.

    If a mob went around defacing museum art they’d be jailed as vandals and vilified on social media. But do it to real landscapes and you’re a fine progressive! It’s like the Twilight Zone with these machines. Even in the millions they won’t do much to stop global warming because the ERoI from their fossil fuel origins is too small. But blogs like this will say nothing bad about them. Their defenders often get angry at any suggestion that the wind emperor is ugly, which tells me that they know it’s true and don’t want their illusions shattered. You can tell when people are rationally defending something vs. True Believers who just stare with blank eyes. “Oh, they’re so beautiful, master!”

    If we’re stuck with growing legions of wind turbines, here’s a small favor to ask:

  8. The excuse about house-cats is really getting old and predictable. Where are all the house-cats roaming miles from cities, especially on mountains where they keep installing turbines? Why is this site so consistently disingenuous?

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