The Real Threat to Eagles. (It’s Not Wind Turbines)

April 12, 2022

So, the widely distributed story this past week was that “150 Eagles were killed by Wind Turbines” – it’s come up a few times, so I activated my one-man crisis response team, and deployed my confidential and highly classified proprietary system for investigating the story.

I read it.
(yes, this is why I make the big bucks)

New York Times, April 10, 2022:

A wind energy company pleaded guilty last week to killing at least 150 eagles at its wind farms and was ordered to pay $8 million in fines and restitution, federal prosecutors said.

The company, ESI Energy, a wholly owned subsidiary of NextEra Energy Resources, was also sentenced to probation for five years, during which it must follow an eagle management plan, after pleading guilty on Tuesday to three counts of violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

ESI acknowledged that at least 150 bald and golden eagles had died at its facilities since 2012, and that 136 of those deaths were “affirmatively determined to be attributable to the eagle being struck by a wind turbine blade,” the Justice Department said in a statement.

The deaths occurred across 50 of the 154 wind farms that the company operates in the United States, the Justice Department said.

OK, math is not my strong suit, but let me take a crack.
150 eagle deaths, across 154 wind facilities, over a decade, is less than 1 eagle, per wind farm, per decade.
Not wind TURBINE, wind FARM. (which might be 20 or 200 turbines)

So in fact, the story actually goes a long way to confirming what wind advocates have been saying – wind turbines have tiny impact on raptors. There are, however some real threats.

First, some context. During the massive buildout of wind energy across the United States, Bald Eagle populations have actually been soaring.

Los Angeles Times:

The number of bald eagles — a species that once came dangerously close to extinction in the United States — has more than quadrupled over the last dozen years despite massive declines in overall bird populations, government scientists announced Tuesday.

A new survey by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found that since 2009, when the last count was taken, the number of eagles had soared to an estimated 316,700 in the lower 48 states. At the species’ lowest point in the 1960s, there were fewer than 500 nesting pairs in those states.

Though bald eagles have been steadily recovering, the latest figures surprised even scientists who study avian populations.

At a news conference Tuesday, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland celebrated the findings as evidence that species vulnerable to extinction can be rescued by government intervention, a departure from the Trump administration’s efforts tosignificantly weaken the Endangered Species Act.

Although the bald eagle was removed from the endangered list in 2007, conservationists credit much of the population’s recovery to decades of protection from federal regulations that made it illegal to hunt the birds.

Detroit Free Press:

America’s iconic national bird, the bald eagle, has made an impressive comeback from its days as an endangered species. But its leading threats remain rooted in human activity, the most comprehensive study ever of bald eagle mortality in Michigan finds.

Researchers with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in conjunction with Michigan State University, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and others, reviewed a huge trove of bald eagle mortality data collected from DNR necropsies — surgical examinations of eagle carcasses to determine causes of death — from 1986 to 2017. Almost 1,500 eagles’ causes of death were reviewed.

The results: The leading killer of bald eagles was vehicular trauma — being hit by cars. Second on the list was lead poisoning, related to eagles ingesting lead ammunition fragments from hunter-shot animals, or lead sinkers from fishermen.

“The bald eagle population in Michigan has made a tremendous comeback since the ban or phaseout of DDT and PCBs,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Kendall Simon, a lead author on the study.

Key graph from the study mentioned above:

This study would include the 8 years or so of serious wind build out in Michigan, which started in 2009 or thereabouts, and so offers a snapshot that seems to be in line with the findings of the current legal action.

New York Times, Feb 19, 2022:

The bald eagle, whose resurgence is considered one of the great conservation success stories of the 21st century, is facing a serious threat: lead poisoning.

Researchers who tested the feathers, bones, livers and blood of 1,200 bald eagles and golden eagles, another bird of prey in the Northern Hemisphere, found that nearly half of them had been exposed repeatedly to lead, which can lead to death and slow population growth.

Scientists believe that the primary source of the lead is spent ammunition from hunters who shoot animals that eagles then scavenge, usually during the winter, according to the study, which was published on Thursday in the journal Science.

Nearly a third of the birds tested also showed signs of acute poisoning, or short-term exposure to lead, according to the study, which was led by scientists from the United States Geological Survey, Conservation Science Global, Inc. and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Below, local officials in Wind turbine communities here in Michigan give their first-hand, now well confirmed observations.

Audubon Society:

Audubon’s data shows that birds are on the move due to climate change. But will they have a safe place to land?

Over the last four centuries, nine bird species have gone extinct. Within this century alone,314 species are imperiled, and without action, could be at risk for future extinction.

By the numbers:

  • 588 North American bird species were included in the study.
  • 314 species are predicted to lose more than 50 percent of their current range by 2080.
  • 188 climate threatened birds face losing more than half of their current range by 2080.
  • 126 climate endangered birds are projected to lose more than 50 percent of their current range by 2050.
  • 170 of the 314 species are found in North Carolina.

For further research, Audubon has a web site where you can enter your state or zip code, and find out which bird species are most at risk from climate change – here.

8 Responses to “The Real Threat to Eagles. (It’s Not Wind Turbines)”

  1. mboli Says:

    On the other hand, the company was fined $8 million dollars for doing 𝘴𝘰𝘮𝘦𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘯𝘨 wrong.

    The NYT article mentions violations of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, not taking steps to protect eagles, not obtaining permits, and gaining a competitive advantage thereby.

    Much as I understand and am sympathetic with @greenman’s point, it would still be interesting to know what the company 𝘴𝘩𝘰𝘶𝘭𝘥 have been doing differently.

    They will be on probation for the next five years. Presumably that means somebody is checking to see they will henceforth be doing right.

    • greenman3610 Says:

      I get it, and shame on them. However they were fined 8 million, and will be spending 27 mill on further mitigation, so sounds like they got the message. Point is, the headlines kind of buried the real import of the story.

      • mboli Says:

        Righto! Passing this story off as a condemnation of wind farms is quite deceptive.

        This was a frequent feature of your denier-debunking videos: the point where you read the report or journal article that the deniers had seized upon, and discovered it was being misrepresented.

        You are doing a public service.

  2. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    “…and deployed my confidential and highly classified proprietary system for investigating the story.

    I read it.”

    See, that’s just another way that you and your so-called reality-based community undermine Real Americans’ efforts to Make America Great Again.

  3. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    That table was for bald eagle trauma subcategory causes of death. That’s why death from toxic pollution weren’t included, so I looked it up:

    185 deaths from poisoning over the same period:

  4. ecoquant Says:

    On Tue, Apr 12, 2022, 11:31 Climate Denial Crock of the Week wrote:

    > greenman3610 posted: ” So, the widely distributed story this past week was > that “150 Eagles were killed by Wind Turbines” – it’s come up a few times, > so I activated my one-man crisis response team, and deployed my > confidential and highly classified proprietary system for i” >

  5. Hobart Stocking Says:

    Here’s my story on Golden Eagles and Wind Turbines from an interview I did with Dr Steve Slater of Hawkwatch International. You are right that wind turbines don’t rank up there. As you mention, collisions with cars is a very big cause. Dr Slater has studied this and is now crusading with all western states Bureaus of Wild Life Management to put in policies and procedures to remove roadkill asap. Doing this has the single biggest effect on eagle mortality.

    That said, Dr George Lakoff (Don’t Think of an Elephant), the famous Berkeley linguist points out that fighting a frame only entrenches that frame. The classic example is “Clean Coal.” So when we say “Coal Is Not Clean,” all we do is associate the concepts of Coal and Clean until half the population believes there is something called Clean Coal. The solution is to be direct. For example. Coal is toxic. Perhaps by extension, Coal kills people as well as birds. By the billions. You get the idea.

    Hobart


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