Ryan Zinke Fact Checked on Wind/Birds

March 7, 2018


Like the Trump administration, or climate deniers, care about birds.


Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke told thousands of mostly oil and natural gas executives at an energy conference here Tuesday that wind turbines kill as many as 750,000 birds a year, repeating a criticism made by other Trump administration officials.

The bottom line: Zinke is exaggerating the figure beyond virtually all published estimates. But more importantly, turbines are a drop in the bucket when it comes to the human-related causes of bird deaths, context Zinke didn’t provide.

The Week:

According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, a part of the Interior Department, the “most comprehensive and statistically sound estimates” put the number of birds killed in wind turbines at 134,000 to 437,000 a year. That number will grow as wind generation expands, but for context, a 2012 Bureau of Land Management memo estimates that 500,000 to 1 million birds die each year in oilfields. “Regardless of the estimate, wind turbines rank much lower than many other human-caused threats in terms of total birds killed,” says University of Oklahoma professor Scott Loss.

Worldwatch Institute:

An anonymous tip last April alerted Canadian officials to the fact that 500 ducks had mistaken an oil sands company’s pollutant-filled reservoir in Alberta as a safe place to land. To the public’s dismay, only three birds survived.

Hundreds of decomposed ducks have since risen to the surface, leading Syncrude Canada to clarify last week that its lake-sized reservoir, known as a tailings pond, in fact killed an estimated 1,606 birds, mostly mallards. Tailings ponds hold a watery mix of clay, sand, hydrocarbons, and heavy metals that remains after the oil extraction process.

The company’s allegedly negligent environmental management has become symbolic of the problems associated withthe development of oil sands – strips of sand or clay mixed with a dense form of petroleum known as bitumen. While the true impact of the fuel’s extraction and production on wildlife and the climate is still unknown, environmentalists caution that further investments in oil sands would result in much wider damage.

To quantify the potential impact on migratory bird species, the U.S.-based Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) explored how many birds – currently alive or yet to be born – would be lost if all the oil sands projects proposed in Alberta came to pass. The report, discussed at a Washington, D.C., briefing on Friday, estimates a maximum death toll of 166 million birds over the next 50-60 years.

“The numbers are of much greater magnitude than anyone imagined because no one ever studied the whole impact of these projects,” said lead author Jeff Wells, a senior scientist at the Seattle-based Boreal Songbird Initiative.

The Australian:

As for coal, those bird death numbers came from a peer-reviewed study in the journal Renewable Energy. That estimate had a more sweeping methodology, though, with the study’s author including everything from coal mining to production – and bird deaths from climate change that coal emissions produce. Together, that amounted to about five birds per gigawatt-hour of energy produced by coal, almost 8 million per year.

Either way, US News notes that none of these numbers hold a candle to cats, which are estimated to kill 1.4 to 3.7 billion birds every year.

Audobon Society:

Audubon strongly supports properly sited wind power as a renewable energy source that helps reduce the threats posed to birds and people by climate change. However, we also advocate that wind power facilities should be planned, sited, and operated in ways that minimize harm to birds and other wildlife, and we advocate that wildlife agencies should ensure strong enforcement of the laws that protect birds and other wildlife.

11 Responses to “Ryan Zinke Fact Checked on Wind/Birds”

  1. Sir Charles Says:

    Excerpt from: Renewable Energy Solution of the Month – Wind

  2. a-rogers Says:

    Peter Bill Scharf, our local bird expert, has found several site that put tall buildings right up there with cats. I can send some if you wish.


  3. Sir Charles Says:

    In the UK The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) has published the following:

    Wind power has a significant role to play in the UK’s fight against climate change and we will work with Government and developers to ensure this outcome.

    Climate change poses the single greatest long-term threat to birds and other wildlife, and the RSPB recognises the essential role of renewable energy in addressing this problem.

    The UK Government has committed to obtaining 20 per cent of electricity from renewable energy sources by 2020. The Scottish Government has committed to an ambitious target of generating the equivalent of 100 per cent of Scotland’s electricity demand from renewables by 2020.

    To meet these targets, the RSPB favours energy efficiency together with a broad mix of renewables, including solar, wind, biomass (for heat and power) and marine power; located and used in ways which minimise damage to the natural environment.

    We support local solutions which enable individuals and communities to generate their own power close to their homes and businesses. But we will also need large-scale deployment of renewables to meet our ambitious climate and renewables targets.

    We must act now

    Switching to renewable energy now, rather than in ten or twenty years, is essential if we are to stabilise greenhouse gases in the atmosphere at safe levels.

    Wind power is the most advanced renewable technology, available at a large scale, over this time period. For this reason, the RSPB supports a significant growth in offshore and onshore wind power generation in the UK.

    We believe this growth can be achieved in harmony with, rather than at the expense of, the natural environment. However, poorly sited wind farms can have negative effects on birds, leading to potential conflict where proposals coincide with areas of high activity for species of conservation concern. We will therefore continue to require that wind farms are sited, designed and managed so there are no significant adverse impacts on important bird populations or their habitats.

    Read more => Wind power

  4. Adrian Vance Says:

    This is actually a fatal mistake on the part of the believers as windmills will kill off all the birds stupid enough to fly into them. The intelligence of subsequent generations will rise and where birds can reproduce within a year of birth this will happen very quickly and they will come where they will attack and kill all of us with weaponized beaks containing lethal bird poop they will have developed to take over the world. Our only solution is to kill all the birds before they kill us!

    Google “Two Minute Conservative” for more.

    • Don Osborn Says:


      All I can say is THANK YOU for your brilliant and timely warning. Well done (really, well done).

      • Adrian Vance Says:

        Don: Thank you so much for realizing my sincerity it trying to warn America, and the world for that matter, of the imminent threat we are building in these windmills the efficiency of which is destroy by the distances involved that cause at least 50% in line loss. I estimate the birds will begin attacking us in large numbers in no less than 60 years according to my “back of the envelope” calculation. Sincerely, Adrian Vance

        • dumboldguy Says:

          ADrunk: Thank you for offering us yet another glimpse into that “back of the envelope” world you inhabit in your whack-job alternative universe.

  5. bbenfulton Says:

    Zinke isn’t up to speed on the talking points. He was supposed to say “raptors” not “birds”.

    • Gingerbaker Says:

      No way a raptor can jump high enough to get hit by a wind turbine blade. I have watched all the Jurassic Park movies – you ain’t going to pull a fast one on me, Mr Fulton.

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