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33 comments

Is Wind Power Bad for Birds?

Posted January 17, 2011 12:00 AM by LakeGrl

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates more than 400,000 birds are killed each year by wind turbine blades. This figure is expected to rise as more wind power projects are built across the country. According to the American Bird Conservancy, three American bird species are being threatened because of their migratory habits: golden eagles, whooping cranes, and the greater sage-grouse. Other birds that have fallen victim to wind turbine blades include red-tailed hawks and burrowing owls.

The wind turbine that kills the most birds is a 20-year old type that rotates quickly and does not allow the birds to navigate the moving turbines. Today's 1.5-mW high-capacity wind turbines turn comparatively slowly, kind of like your bicycle wheel at the highest gear. Birds can usually dodge these slow-moving blades.

It seems that bird migration and topographic features are now being taken into consideration as the use of wind energy moves forward. This site gives a nice explanation of the issues of Birds and Wind Power and a list of the gravest dangers birds face every day. The data indicates that glass windows and electric transmission lines cause the most deaths.

Of course, any death of an endangered species is one too many. The question is then: does the impact on birds outweigh the environmental savings and benefits of wind energy? Are there ways to further improve this type of energy? How does wind power compare to the environmental impact of one oil spill or one nuclear reactor incident?

What are your thoughts?

Group sounds alarm over wind energy threat to birds

American Bird Conservancy

Do Wind Turbines Kill Birds?

Are Wind Turbines Actually Bird Blenders?

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#1

Re: Is Wind Power Bad for Birds?

01/18/2011 1:49 AM

it is a complete load of rubbish, unless 400,000 birds go blind every year, additionally birds fly with magnetic resonance receptors which is how they navigate. OOPs didn't see that, how bloody ridiculous, what a load of garbage, most birds are fast enough to get out of the way of planes doing over 400 MPH. even on a good day turbine blades are actually quite slow, so it would have to run into it like a building not get chopped by it.

The absolute rubbish oil people will spread, If you believe this for one second you are a complete moron

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#4
In reply to #1

Re: Is Wind Power Bad for Birds?

01/18/2011 6:07 AM

Before you start on labelling everyone as moron spouting rubbish, you may care to note the rubbish thou emanateth thyself. Yes, it is true that at least some birds can sense magnetic fields, but to suggest they have magnetic resonance receptors is beyond the evidence from the available science. As for the idea that most birds "are fast enough to get out of the way of planes doing over 400 MPH", the take-off speed of a commercial aircraft can be less than 200 knots, yet bird strikes are a feared problem at airports.
Yes, the statistic is wrongly high, for well established reasons, but to deny it completely is not science either

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#2

Re: Is Wind Power Bad for Birds?

01/18/2011 4:50 AM

I wonder if Darwin will step in and the birds that "escape" the blades will "remember" and pass the infos onto their progeny? Evolution again....

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#31
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Re: Is Wind Power Bad for Birds?

01/21/2011 10:48 AM

Actually they do...according to one site (referenced on one of my many replies here), one of the factors that causes greater bird strikes is "new installation". That is to say, after a year or so, bird strikes drop off dramatically because the birds learn that this big whirling thing is actually dangerous.

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#32
In reply to #31

Re: Is Wind Power Bad for Birds?

01/21/2011 11:12 AM

Or typical species of birds, being too stupid, are not present anymore in the direct vicinity of the windmill, replaced by other species that are sufficiently smart and understand that this is another opportunity to have and easier life. (food just falls out of the skies)

Some bird species are remarkably smart, understanding where exactly on a road they can walk without being hit by cars.

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#3

Re: Is Wind Power Bad for Birds?

01/18/2011 5:05 AM

Can I understand that all the wind farms since 20 years are constructed without an approved feasibility study which usually are including the choise of the wind farm location based on the wind and birds migeration / habits study during the year.

If the answer that there was a study and approved by the American Bird Coservancy, how it comes that 400,000 birds are killed per year in USA from wind turbines.

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#5

Re: Is Wind Power Bad for Birds?

01/18/2011 7:36 AM

That's just totally unacceptable, birds being killed by these rotating blades. You say 400,000! How many billions of birds would you calculate fly past such things? Oh my, 0.004% death rate, why we must put a stop to these monstrosities. Then you say that power lines are killing birds too, not to mention the squirrels and raccoons that happen to pick a fine resting place upon this strange tree without limbs or bark. Oh yes all the power lines must come down at once. Then to think we put windows right into their flight path, maybe a reflection confuses them and they just have to fly right into the window to their death. All window must be banded at once and all existing windows must be removed. Now that one ponders on these poor feathered friends plight, we had better halt all vehicular motion too, as so many are killed by such devastating human intrusion. This would no doubt help the population recovery of deer, squirrels, moose, elk, etc. and save our poor neighbors pets too. Yada yada yada .........

Oh, well. Perhaps I will apply for government funding for researching and estimating the impact of human life on these other animal species to see if we need to remove the impacting factor too. I need to go remove all my windows and take down the poor lines outside right now, so thanks for your posting.

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#9
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Re: Is Wind Power Bad for Birds?

01/18/2011 10:19 AM

My wife told me she recovered 14 dead birds after they have flown into the windows of our house during the past year. Most of the kills occur in the spring and fall, some in the summer but none in the winter.This does not account for those not recovered or injured birds that may fly away and die somewhere else. We have put silhouettes of hawks on the glass and even phony owls on the lawn. They still seem to be bent on flying through the glass.

Hmmm..when you get the research money, I would gladly do a neighborhood survey, or city survey, to try to extrapolate a value for dead birds killed by human houses. Then we can go to buildings and other structures. For houses, so far the score is birds 0, glass 14. They do make solid glass. How much research money is available?

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#16
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Re: Is Wind Power Bad for Birds?

01/18/2011 12:29 PM

Please remove the glass immediately

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#20
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Re: Is Wind Power Bad for Birds?

01/18/2011 11:01 PM

Naw, that ain't gonna happen. The birds would make their nests and roost in the house. My wife won't clean up after them and neither will I. Besides it is kinda cold here in the winter without glass and my wife won't let me brick up the windows. So, I guess, screw the birds. I will just keep score.

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#13
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Re: Is Wind Power Bad for Birds?

01/18/2011 10:56 AM

Interesting comment. We can go overboard with our protective instincts sometimes. But the idea is, since we are the "intelligent" beings on this planet, to do as little harm as possible to other living things. I believe this is the reason behind wind energy to begin with. We can do things to reduce the impact on nature and still fill our need for energy. Stickers on windows, resisting the desire to build all glass sky scrapers, building wind farms in locations that do not impact bird migration, and so much more.

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#6

Re: Is Wind Power Bad for Birds?

01/18/2011 8:17 AM

So what do you want from us Lakegrl? Independent verification of Curry and Kerlingers methodology? I note that C and K unashamedly have sampled wind generator sites scattered over half the globe, and their results contradict the US Fish and Wildlife Results by more than an order of magnitude by your own statements. Is this forum post a request to publicly refute the US Fish and Wildlife Survey Results? Or that of the American Wind Wildlife Institute? I could not seem to find the 400,000 dead bird results n the USFWR web pages.

Can you find it and post it here please, and I would be happy to evaluate the testing methedology.

On the other hand, I wonder if this is a straw man. I note that after a half hour of googling, I cannot find the statistic that 400,000 birds are killed each year by wind turbine blades.

The only "study" I could find was this one...and if somebody else can open that link, all power to them! The National Wind Co-ordinating Collaborative seems at first blush where one would find this information, but like almost everything else about the "wind industry" it seems to exist to shine the butts of bureaucrats with important sounding chairs. Michael Fry of the American Bird Conservatory seems to put the figure at a much lower 75 000, and he should know. (Reported here by a Syncrude apologist)

Ah well...no doubt there is a voice of reason some where. But in a world which accepts Homeopathy and astrology, what chance do we have to simply say "show me the evidence" and have it actually examined? Let alone evaluated. My grand daddy would have called this post (if he had seen it in a newspaper) a "shxx disturbing post". Designed to make a bad smell and not much else.

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#10
In reply to #6

Re: Is Wind Power Bad for Birds?

01/18/2011 10:30 AM

As far as the 400,000, the number is mentioned in this article Group sounds alarm over wind energy threat to birds. As far as upsetting your grand daddy, this is a forum for discussion. I just put this information out there for discussion, and possibly, or hopefully, ideas on ways to improve the technology. As noted in the post, the figure was an estimate - this documentation points to an estimated figure of 40,000 - Abstract : Migratory birds suffer considerable human-caused ... One figure may be global and the other in the US.

Whatever the actual number, the point was to create a discussion on the subject, after all that is what this site is for. A place for news and discussion. I found it an interesting subject and thought other readers would too.

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#18
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Re: Is Wind Power Bad for Birds?

01/18/2011 8:50 PM

cut and paste from the government study mentioned in your reply follows.

>>>>While mortality estimates are often sketchy, and won't be verified until

nationwide cumulative impact studies are conducted, current figures are troubling.

Communication towers may kill from 4-50 million birds per year. Collisions with power

transmission and distribution lines may kill anywhere from hundreds of thousands to 175

million birds annually, and power lines electrocute tens to hundreds of thousands more

birds annually, but these utilities are poorly monitored for both strikes and electrocutions.

More than 15,000 wind turbines may kill 40,000 or more birds annually nationwide, the

majority in California. This paper will address the commonalities of bird impacts among

these industries; those bird species that tend to be most affected; and research (completed,

current, and proposed) intended to reduce bird collisions and electrocutions nationwide.

The issues of structure location (siting), lighting, guy supports, lattice or tubular

structures, bird behavior, and habitat modifications are reviewed. In addition, this paper

reviews the respective roles and publications of the Avian Power Line Interaction

Committee and the Wildlife Workgroup of the NationalWind Coordinating Committee,

the roles of the Service-chaired Communication Tower Working Group and Wind Turbine

Siting Working Group, and the Fish and Wildlife Services= voluntary communication

tower, and turbine siting and placement guidelines. An update on recent Communication

Tower Working Group research initiatives will also be discussed along with promising

research findings and needs.

End cut and paste....

Well, there we go, the government site suggests 40 thousand. Across a continent. Yearly. Still an order of magnitude smaller than the 400 thousand it seemed to have grown to by the time the "Times" article got ahold of it.

Sloppy sloppy sloppy sloppy reporting on the part of "Times News Net". Clearly NOT a good place to get material for discussion. I will not use that as a source in the future, they play fast and loose with the facts.

Thank you for finding the abstract. It notes, among other things, that towers such as cell phone towers (communications towers) seem to kill more birds than turbines. Hmmm. LOTS more birds.

I know that bald Eagles die a lot in the because they want to nest on the top of power lines....seems the power lines are perfectly placed for the wings to hit both wires at the same time. Would take a stroke of the pen to demand that all power lines will be strung one above the other. But do they do that? Noooooo. This is all that it would take to bring the once plentiful symbol of your great nation back. (Actually, the pen HAS been stroked, but nobody is holding the electrical distribution companies' feet to the fire for lack of compliance.)

Actually, the discussion has already been mostly done....as this cut and paste from a different abstract points out. (one thing you can count on is there is always an agency with an oar in!) cut and paste follows

>>>For electric utilities specifically, this would be through the implementation of Avian Protection Plans modeled after the Avian Protection Plan Guidelines developed by the Service and the Avian Power Line Interaction Committee (APLIC) in 2005 and utilizing information contained in the 2006 edition of APLIC's Suggested Practices for Avian Protection on Power Lines, as well as the 1994 edition of Mitigating Bird Collisions With Power Lines.

Perhaps we should revisit these guidelines if you think we need some changes made! Myself, I think they are pretty complete and socially conscious as they are.

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#30
In reply to #18

Re: Is Wind Power Bad for Birds?

01/20/2011 9:53 AM

I agree, guidelines are great, but compliance is always an issue.

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#7

Re: Is Wind Power Bad for Birds?

01/18/2011 9:41 AM

Survival of the fittest should be the rule here. God forbid that OSHA start worrying about birds and make them all wear helmets.

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#8
In reply to #7

Re: Is Wind Power Bad for Birds?

01/18/2011 10:02 AM

I read a couple of years ago that a bird was killed every year for each 10 wind turbines. I can't remember the source of this statistic, but the results were that it was really unsignificant compared to birds killed by airplanes.

I also heard that bats were killed by wind turbine. A farmer in France woke up one morning, and there was plenty of dead bats laying around his land. People were wondering why it happened, and when doing the autopsy on these bats, they found that their lungs were broken (excuse the lack of vocabulary english is not my first langage), all in blood. It was caused by the drop of pressure on the trailing edge of the blades. When bats flew there, their lungs exploded because of the diffrence of pressure between ambiant air and their system. How sad. I wonder the effects of these dying bats on the environment.

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#11
In reply to #8

Re: Is Wind Power Bad for Birds?

01/18/2011 10:38 AM

Drop in pressure seems to be another issue beside turbine speed and location. If this could be improved with new design, this could have a significant impact. Thanks for you comment.

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#15
In reply to #7

Re: Is Wind Power Bad for Birds?

01/18/2011 11:42 AM

sorry, I couldn't resist this :)

Zebra Finch Image courtesy of itg.beckman.illinois.edu

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#21
In reply to #15

Re: Is Wind Power Bad for Birds?

01/19/2011 1:12 AM

If whoever invented this helmet could also invent a methane collector for cows to wear all our energy problems would be over as well as global warming.

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#12

Re: Is Wind Power Bad for Birds?

01/18/2011 10:46 AM

What about the millions killed by vehicles every year?

Who is doing something/cares about that?

For the record I would say 10 or so kill themselves on the windows at my place every year. Or at least 10 I find before the local scavengers clean them up there could be more but I don't know how efficient the local cleanup critters go by my house. The dead ones I do see rarely stay in place for more that a day before they disappear by some natural means.

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#17
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Re: Is Wind Power Bad for Birds?

01/18/2011 12:31 PM

We are working hard on that issue, traffic is especially slowed down for the birds in the morning and evening.

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#14

Re: Is Wind Power Bad for Birds?

01/18/2011 11:32 AM

This is one more point to indicate that man's impact on earth's enviornment is far greater than any other species. We could attempt to build in protections when we design our machines that are to help man and nothing else. It is the only earth we have and we must protect and preserve it. Mother Nature does a fine job of this, but we are capable of destroying the earth faster than she can fix it. The sooner we can learn to work with her, the better for us all both now and in the future.

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#19

Re: Is Wind Power Bad for Birds?

01/18/2011 10:33 PM

From the book, "Sustainable Energy — without the hot air", Version 3.5.2. November 3, 2008, by David JC MacKay, UIT Cambridge Ltd. Copyright © 2009 David JC MacKay(Available here for download in *.pdf format)

From Figure 10, Page 64:

Annual Bird Deaths in Denmark

Caused by wind turbines: 30,000

Caused by Cars: 1,000,000

Caused by Cats: 55,000,000

Of course, Mr. MacKay goes on to provide more than sufficient detail to explain why wind energy schemes are mostly scams without having to call upon dead birds. He also brings some light to the solar babble and other alternative energy schemes, mostly by relating how much energy these schemes can actually provide in terms of how much energy we actually use as individuals. I do not believe Mr. MacKay has any oil company connections. I do not have any oil company connections...Wind energy just does not have what it takes to stand on its own merits without outrageous subsidies from taxpayers except in very special circumstances. But, the impact on bird life appears to be minimal...

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#24
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Re: Is Wind Power Bad for Birds?

01/19/2011 11:58 AM

You might be right on the fact that with the actual level of the electricity price, alternative energy is not worth it.

Certainly not if you need to change the actual grid infrastructure, which has been designed for single high density energy production points.

But, who payed for this structure?

In the startup of Nuclear an awfull amount of governmental money has been invested in it.

Now that changes need to happen that would take away the high influence the big players have it is understandable that they come up with very high costs to do it.

What they hope is that the government again will come up with money and replace the infrastructure they forgot to keep updated over the last 30 years.

Wind energy and other renewable sources are realistic if we are honest with all the costs for every production system.

It is true that these are only available when the source is there, so you need a storage system.

Nuclear needs this too, and for nuclear it was no problem to build those enormous pumping and generation stations.

Alternative energy systems are not allowed this option, they are shot by the fact that they need them.

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#25
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Re: Is Wind Power Bad for Birds?

01/19/2011 12:37 PM

Unfortunately, wind and solar have been so over-hyped by the proponents, who tend to ignore the realistic limitations of these alternatives, that their credibility is seriously challenged. One needs to think in terms of "appropriate" applications. Wind and solar are a long, long away from providing base line electrical power, and still require conventional (i.e., fossil fuel, for the most part) facilities to take over when the wind isn't blowing or the sun isn't shining. Furthermore, it takes on the order of 20 hectares of real estate to generate 1 MW of electricity with solar; about 50 hectares of real estate to generate 1MW of electricity with wind. With wind, one has a really, really good system if one can capture 30% of capacity...Couple this with the fact that manufacturing capabilities for wind and solar components can not meet the projected increase in demand, it is difficult to see how there is any hope that these technologies can displace any existing fossil fuel plants any time soon...

Alternative energy solutions have appropriate applications, but they are not now, nor can they be expected to be in the near future, a panacea for our energy issues.

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#26
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Re: Is Wind Power Bad for Birds?

01/19/2011 12:54 PM

you don't need to lock the surface for one purpose, solar goes on roofs of already existing structures.

Wind could be integrated in the society, check VAWT.

here comes the trick: mix all the systems and balance this mix: tidal, wind, solar (both PV and thermal) and it starts to be a realistic picture.

shut down the Nuclear plants and the freed storage systems can be used for the renewable.

In Europe we now need to stop the wind turbines as we start to make to much electricity and in the production scheme nuclear has priority, ore said differently, in the production agreements the option of reducing the nuclear output is left out and wind can be stopped by the grid operators.

Tell me that wind will never be able to supply a fraction of what we need.

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#27
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Re: Is Wind Power Bad for Birds?

01/19/2011 1:12 PM

I would like to refer you to the book by MacKay that I referenced in my earlier post; also, Google "cubic mile of oil equivalent" to find some realistic numbers regarding how much of the world energy demand can be met by wind.

You can not turn a nuclear power station on and off- actually, most fossil fuel plants can not be turned on and off at will- they require warm up time. Wind is intermittent and unpredictable, so you have to have back up capabilities running in standby mode (i.e., dumping energy you could be using). In Germany, they have had serious problems with rapid switching of sources when they try to exceed more than about 20% of capacity from intermittent sources...

Wind has it's place in the mix, but it will not significantly displace base line capacity in the foreseeable future...

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#22

Re: Is Wind Power Bad for Birds?

01/19/2011 11:17 AM

The original question was "Is wind power bad for birds?". My question is how do the birds tell if the power they are using is generated by wind or other methods? And which birds are using this power? This is most remarkable question, as I thought man was the only creature currently using electric power!

The original post did not ask if wind turbines were bad for birds.

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#29
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Re: Is Wind Power Bad for Birds?

01/20/2011 9:43 AM
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#23

Re: Is Wind Power Bad for Birds?

01/19/2011 11:34 AM

I would imagine all bird species have 'warning' cries.

One could simply design a danger warning 'whistler', similar to those deer warning whistles they sell to stick on your car, that would be species specific for the birds laying dead beneath a wind turbine and stick them on the blades.

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#28
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Re: Is Wind Power Bad for Birds?

01/20/2011 9:23 AM

I remember those, I used to have 2 on the front grill of my car. Do they really work? If so, it sounds like a simple solution.

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#33

Re: Is Wind Power Bad for Birds?

01/27/2011 12:36 AM

The one thing that Ive noticed is that Birds are fascinated by windsheilds

In faster wind turbine locations ,recycled windshields could be used

to attract them away from the Danger,somehow.ds

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