Let’s take the average of the results from these research rather than going down the proverbial rabbit hole to figure out which study is the most accurate. This puts the number of birds killed by wind turbines in the United States in 2012 at at 366,000.
It’s worth noting that wind energy capacity has increased dramatically since then. According to the Loss and others study, there were 44,577 turbines in operation in 2012, however the U.S. Wind Turbine Database shows that there are now 65,548 turbines in operation, a 47 percent increase. After accounting for the industry’s expansion, we estimate that about 538,000 birds die each year in the United States as a result of wind turbines.
However, because it takes into account the size of turbines as well as their number, mortality projections based on energy produced are more commonly utilized. According to the American Wind Energy Association, wind energy capacity in the United States increased by 86 percent from 60,067 megawatts (MW) in 2012 to 111,808 megawatts (MW) as of this writing in 2021. Taking this shift into account, it is estimated that 681,000 birds are killed by wind turbines in the United States each year.
Because many bird deaths go unnoticed by humans, these estimates are likely to underestimate the full scope of the problem.
Consider that little songbirds are the most common birds in the United States, and they are also the most commonly killed by turbines. At two wind sites in California, canines identified 1.6 and 2.7 times as many small bird mortality as human monitors, according to a research published in March 2020. Even after attempting to adjust for searcher detection error, which is normal practice in such investigations, this remained true.
Small birds accounted for 62.5 percent of the birds in the Erickson study’s data set. Taking 62.5 percent of the 681,000 annual mortality estimate and multiplying it by the 1.6- and 2.7-fold multipliers from the dog search study (along with the other 37.5 percent of birds), the total number of birds would be 936,000 and 1.4 million, respectively, based on the numbers from the two sites. By averaging the two, it’s estimated that 1.17 million birds are killed each year in the United States by wind turbines.
Wind generating projects have substantial secondary effects that must be considered in addition to the bird deaths mentioned above.
Many wind farms, for example, are positioned far from the current power infrastructure, necessitating the building of new powerlines, which adds to bird death.
Researchers estimated that 25.5 million birds are killed each year by accidents with powerlines, with another 5.6 million killed by electrocutions, according to a 2014 study. As a result, powerlines installed solely to connect new wind facilities to the existing energy grid result in extra bird deaths, which should be added into the total number of birds killed as a result of wind energy development.
Wind farms also necessitate a sizable amount of land. Facility development can fragment or otherwise alter habitat, making it unsuitable for species that have previously thrived there. For example, after one year, a study at wind farms in the Dakotas discovered displacement impacts for seven of nine grassland bird species. While these effects have been shown in a number of research, they have yet to be quantified at a large scale.
When the foregoing facts are reviewed, it becomes evident that current estimates of the toll of wind energy development on birds are limited and do not take into account the industry’s complete impact.
The estimations above are imperfect since they are based on research that were produced from an incomplete data collection.
While most wind farms are required to undertake bird surveys in order to influence project planning and post-construction bird fatality studies, they are not always required to share their findings, and many businesses keep their data confidential. Bird mortality could be better understood if this statistics were made publicly available, and conservation prescriptions could be adapted accordingly.
On a similar point, the species that are harmed by wind turbines must be taken into account. Others species are more vulnerable to accidents with wind turbines than others, and some have slower rates of reproduction, thus losses may have a greater impact on their populations. California Condors and Marbled Murrelets, two of our rarest and most iconic species, fall into this category and are at risk of colliding with wind turbines. Others, such as Whooping Cranes, are losing their habitat due to wind energy development.
As previously stated, our estimates indicate that the annual toll of birds killed by wind turbines in the United States is at least half a million, and an equally conservative estimate puts the figure at almost 700,000 birds. There’s an argument to be made that the figure could be higher than one million. These are all likely to be underestimates for the reasons indicated above.
Regardless of the details, this is much too many when one considers the numerous other risks to birds on the landscape, as well as the significant declines in bird populations that have already occurred.
What is the answer to this puzzle? How can we continue to build wind turbines to combat climate change while also killing birds? Bird-Smart Wind Energy is our solution. To avoid high-risk locations for birds, smart wind energy production begins with effective data collecting and suitable siting. The available mitigation measures can then be implemented to further reduce risks, and the effects should always be mitigated by strong on-the-ground mitigation measures.
Why do birds die as a result of wind turbines?
The Obama administration has issued permission for “taking (killing) bald and golden eagles” for a 30-year period. The massive birds will be lawfully slain “inadvertently” by lethal wind turbines put in their breeding grounds and “dispersion areas” where their young congregate (e.g. Altamont Pass). A current government research claims that wind farms will kill “just 1.4 million birds annually by 2030,” by chance (if you believe in coincidences). This is only one of several reports, funded by taxpayers, aimed at persuading the public that the excess mortality caused by wind farms is acceptable. It isn’t the case.
Dr. Shawn Smallwood’s four-year study in 2004 found that the Altamont Pass wind “farm” in California killed an average of 116 Golden Eagles per year. Since it was created 25 years ago, 2,900 “goldies” have died. Altamont is the largest, but not the only, sinkhole for the species, and industry-funded study stating that California’s GE population is steady is a sham.
Eagles aren’t the only ones that have suffered. Smallwood also projected that Altamont killed 300 red-tailed hawks, 333 American kestrels, and 380 burrowing owls per year, as well as 2,526 rock doves and 2,557 western meadowlarks. The Spanish Ornithological Society (SEO/Birdlife) evaluated real carcass counts from 136 surveillance surveys in 2012, breaking the European omerta on wind farm death.
According to their findings, Spain’s 18,000 wind turbines kill 6-18 million birds and bats each year. Extrapolating from that and similar (under-publicized) German and Swedish research, 39,000 US wind turbines would kill “just 440,000 birds (USFWS, 2009)” or “only 573,000 birds and 888,000 bats (Smallwood, 2013), but 13-39 million birds and bats each year! Self-serving and/or politically motivated government agencies, wind industry lobbyists, environmental groups, and ornithologists, on the other hand, are covering up the devastation with a slew of bogus studies paid for with more taxpayer money.
Even though modern monster turbines launch 80 percent of bird and bat carcasses much further, wildlife expert Jim Wiegand has demonstrated how regions explored under wind turbines are still constrained to 200-foot radiuses. Windfarm operators, following voluntary (!) USFWS standards, commission studies that explore far too narrow regions, examine just once every 30-90 days, assuring that scavengers destroy most carcasses, and ignore wounded birds located within search perimeters.
These research techniques are intended to ensure exceptionally low mortality rates, concealing the true death tolls, and the USFWS is willing to maintain the deceit. Furthermore, data on bird fatality is now considered the property of wind farm owners, implying that the public has no right to know. Regardless, reports have surfaced that eagles are being hacked to death across the United States. Raptors are drawn to wind turbines, so this isn’t surprising. They rest or scan for prey when perched atop them. They come because wind turbines are frequently erected in environments with plenty of food (live or carrion) and strong gliding winds.
Save the Eagles International (STEI) has released images of raptors sitting on nacelles or stationary blades, as well as ospreys establishing a nest on a decommissioned turbine. A turkey vulture perched on the hub of a spinning turbine and a griffon vulture being injured in films prove that moving blades do not deter them. Birds mistake areas traveled by spinning blades for wide space, oblivious to the fact that blade tips can travel at speeds of up to 180 mph. Many people are preoccupied with catching prey. Wind turbines are “ecological death traps” because of these reasons, regardless of where they are positioned.
The United States intends to generate 20% of its electricity from wind by 2030. That’s approximately six times as much as today, from three or four times as many turbines, which, due to their larger size, strike more flying species (even the mendacious study predicting 1.4 million bird kills recognizes this). By 2030, our wind turbines would be killing over 3 million birds and 5 million bats annually, according to the higher but still underestimated estimates of death released by Smallwood in 2013.
However, this is a factor of ten off from reality, because 90% of casualties occur beyond the search zone and are not counted. As a result, we’re talking about an unsustainable death toll of 30 million birds and 50 million bats every year, with much more if we factor in other STEI-documented hide-the-mortality schemes. Eagles, hawks, falcons, owls, condors, whooping cranes, geese, bats, and other protected species are among those killed by cars and cats. Rodent numbers will skyrocket as a result of the raptor slaughter. Agriculture and forestry will be hurt hard by the slaughter of bats, who are already being destroyed by White Nose Syndrome.
According to the US Geological Survey, the value of pest-control services offered by bats to US agriculture ranges from $3.7 billion to $53 billion per year. These chiroptera also function as pollinators and fight forest pests. Insects that swarm around wind turbines attract them from as far as nine miles away, according to a Swedish research. As a result, the bloodbath. Wind industry lobbyists argue that they require “regulatory clarity.” Eagle “take permits, on the other hand, will almost certainly result in extinction as well as ecological, agricultural, economic, social, and health crises that we cannot afford.
Note 2: All comments were deleted as well. In the comment section below, we explain why.
What impact do wind turbines have on birds?
“According to Fred Cheverie, watershed coordinator of the PEI Wildlife Federation’s Souris and Area Branch, these windmills will be among the world’s highest, posing a threat to birds and bats. “It will be built in a setting that includes a number of wetlands that serve as nesting grounds for a variety of birds and other creatures.
According to Cheverie, the area is home to 52 fragile species of birds, as well as four endangered species. White nose sickness has destroyed bat populations on the island, making them susceptible. “However, he adds, there is some recovery in this area, which would raise the chances of bat-turbine collisions.
Cheverie is afraid that the roads connecting to the turbines may split the wetlands, which are also crucial for carbon sequestration. According to him, the wind farm’s chosen location in Souris is “in the middle of one of the last remaining natural areas on Prince Edward Island.
The property is next to the Red Triangle, which has been recognized by the Canadian Wildlife Service as a migratory bird refuge and protection area. PEI Energy Corporation redesigned its wind farm to avoid the triangle, and the company claims it is taking steps to lessen its environmental impact, but Cheverie is concerned about the additional turbines.
According to a 2013 study, the proliferation of wind turbines in Canada over the next 10-15 years could result in the extinction of 233,000 birds and the displacement of 57,000 pairs each year. According to another study, wind turbines kill between 140,000 and 328,000 birds in the United States each year. It’s worth mentioning that data from 2014 revealed that 12 to 64 million birds died in the United States due to collisions with power lines, but power lines are more common than wind turbines, so it’s a difficult comparison.
Why are turbines such a horrible thing for birds?
Another recent study looked at the vulnerability of 604 bird species in North America to climate change. According to the findings, 64% of people are susceptible in some form. We need a quick, broad response to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to safeguard birds from the effects of climate change.
This is where renewable energy enters the picture. As part of a larger effort to phase out fossil fuel use, wind and solar energy production is accelerating across the United States.
While this is beneficial in terms of mitigating climate change, there is an unintended consequence: wind and solar energy facilities pose a threat to birds.
Nonetheless, anytime the question of how many birds are killed by wind turbines is raised, it is frequently stated that wind turbines kill fewer birds per year than other risks such as outdoor cats and window crashes. The goal here appears to be to make it sound as if wind turbines do not pose a substantial threat to birds.
While it is technically true that other hazards kill more birds than wind turbines, this argument is deceptive in some respects and irrelevant in others.
The argument for downplaying the impact of wind energy on birds is based on a comparison of the overall number of birds killed each year by outdoor cats, window collisions, and other human-caused hazards, referencing a landmark book by Dr. Scott Loss and colleagues.
This paper compiled findings from a number of studies undertaken by the authors themselves, which looked at annual bird death as a result of a variety of hazards. When these hazards were compared, wind turbine deaths were not near the top of the list.
While it’s vital to look at the big pictureoutdoor cats kill a startling number of birdsignoring the scale of each specific hazard is a mistake.
According to Dr. Loss’s outdoor cat study, the United States has between 30 and 80 million unowned cats. In 2012, when Dr. Loss’ wind turbine study was published, there were 44,577 wind turbines on the landscape. The size disparity is enormous: at the time, there were around 700 to 1,800 times as many unowned cats as there were wind turbines.
Let’s look at it from another angle: How many birds would be killed if there were 30 to 80 million wind turbines? This is clearly not going to happen. However, considering the increasing rise of the wind energy industry, we can’t ignore the effects of wind turbines on birds.
It’s also worth remembering that not all birds are affected in the same way by wind turbines. Because of their reproductive ecology, some bird species are more vulnerable to turbine crashes and less capable of suffering losses than others.
The Skookumchuck Wind facility in western Washington, for example, started operations in 2020 and is expected to kill 85 federally threatened Marbled Murrelets over the course of the project’s 30-year permit period.
Unfortunately, wind energy growth is threatening not only this species, but many others as well.
The population of Golden Eagles at the Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area in California has been maintained, according to researchers “Immigration on a continental scale. In other words, only the entrance of fresh eagles from other parts of North America compensated for local losses. Endangered California Condors are predicted to be killed by wind farms in southern California.
These creatures reproduce at a snail’s pace. Marbled Murrelets and California Condors are very sluggish breeders, producing only one chick every other year. Each bird that is lost is a blow to populations that are already vulnerable.
Although there is some overlap in the species killed by wind turbines, cats, and other hazards, some species endangered by wind energy development are unlikely to come into contact with any of the others. To kill a Golden Eagle, for example, it would require a determined cat.
At the end of the day, it’s the cumulative effects that really matter. To put it another way, wind energy growth is just one of several causes of bird mortality, all of which are interconnected.
Wind turbines, outdoor cats, window crashes, and other sources of mortality kill more or less birds, so it’s a bit of a moot point. With each facility built in a high-risk location for birds, the harm posed by wind turbines escalates.
Returning to the findings of Dr. Loss and colleagues, we note that their publication on wind turbines stated: “Despite the fact that bird mortality at wind turbines appears to be lower than other anthropogenic sources of mortality, mortality at wind facilities should not be disregarded out of hand.
It’s evident that we need to act quickly to reverse the effects of climate change, which requires a speedy transition to renewable energy. But we must do it correctly. When it comes to our delicate and diminishing bird populations, we can’t afford to be careless.
Wind turbines kill more birds than anything else.
According to the Guardian, the United States and Canada have lost more than one in every four birds since 1970, and this is not due to wind farms. The causes of what kills a lot more birds can be divided into three categories:
Agriculture, deforestation, and urbanization are all issues that need to be addressed. Simply said, habitat devastation is taking place. Let us also include pesticides in this sector of agriculture. “Pesticides may kill 72 million birds per year, or probably many more,” according to Sibley Guides. Pesticides’ sublethal effects may make birds more vulnerable to predators or prevent them from reproducing, thus killing them.
Oil fatalities are estimated to be significantly higher, according to Sibley Guides. According to the bird reference book:
Hundreds of thousands of birds die each year as a result of oil spills. Some of this happens in massive, dramatic spills, but the majority of it happens in thousands of small, unnoticed spills that go unnoticed.
The Audubon Society published an article regarding the dangers that wind turbines cause to birds, suggesting that wind farms be built in areas where birds are less likely to fly. They also detail the various methods used by wind farm manufacturers to frighten birds away. They say towards the end of the article:
A pragmatic approach to energy creation and protecting the planet’s birds may be the one we have to embrace in a warming world where more and more birds will be imperiled by climate change.
In January 2013, a research published by Science Direct stated:
Within the limits of the data analyzed, the assessment indicates that wind farms killed 20,000 birds in the United States in 2009, whereas nuclear reactors killed 330,000 and fossil-fueled power plants killed almost 14 million. Further research is needed, but the paper concludes that fossil-fueled power plants appear to pose a significantly higher hazard to birds and avian animals than wind farms and nuclear power plants.
While some of the disparity might be attributed to fossil fuels’ higher usage, the study found that wind causes 0.3-0.4 fatalities per gigawatt-hour, whereas fossil fuels cause 5.2 per gigawatt-hour, or 15 times as much per unit energy. Millions of birds would be saved if fossil fuels were replaced by wind. For a reason, the phrase “canary in a coal mine” is used instead of “canary on a wind farm.”
Cats and windows don’t mix. Treehugger compiled a list of the most dangerous hazards to birds in 2014, based on the number of deaths. Wind turbines ranked ninth in the 2014 State of the Birds Publication (the most recent report with these figures). Cats (2.4 billion), windows (599 million), automobiles (200 million), power linescollision (25 million), communication towers (6.6 million), power lineselectrocution (5.6 million), agricultural chemicals (US figure unknown, Canada 2.7 million), and wind turbines are the main threats to birds (234,000).
So, even if the current predicted number of bird deaths is the greatest, 750,000, it’s still a lot less than the next category up.
How can you prevent birds from being killed by wind turbines?
A simple coat of black paint could be the secret to lowering the number of birds killed by wind turbines each year. A research conducted at a wind farm on the Norwegian archipelago of Smla found that changing the color of a single turbine blade from white to black reduced the frequency of bird deaths by 70%.
Wind power is booming right now, with over 60 gigawatts of additional generating capacity added globally in 2019. Wind power is consistently cheaper than burning fossil fuels as long as the turbines are placed correctly. And the majority of people would rather live near a wind farm than any other type of electricity plant, including solar.
However, owing of their impact on local populations of flying wildlife such as birds and bats, not everyone is a fan of wind turbines. Politicians with a vendetta against renewable energy argue that because of the avian death toll, we should continue to mine coal and extract oil, and US President Donald Trump has referred to wind farms as a “bird graveyard.” According to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, approximately 300,000 birds were killed by wind turbines in 2015 (roughly two orders of magnitude fewer than die each year as a result of colliding with electrical power lines), and bird deaths from turbines are on the decline as the industry transitions to larger, slower-moving blades.
Wind-related bird deaths may have been exaggerated at the time, but they still happen. Birds may not be very good at identifying barriers when flying, according to previous laboratory studies, therefore adding visual signals like various colored fan blades can improve birds’ chances of spotting a swiftly revolving fan.
Between 2006 and 2013, frequent assessments of four specific wind turbines, each 70 meters tall with three 40-meter-long blades, discovered six white-tailed eagle carcasses at the Smla wind farm. Over the course of six years, the four turbines killed 18 birds that flew into the blades, as well as five willow ptarmigans, which have been known to collide with the turbine towers rather than the blades. (Over the same time period, another four turbines chosen as a control group were responsible for seven bird deaths, excluding willow ptarmigans.)
As a result, each of the four turbines in the test group received a single black blade in 2013. Only six birds were found dead after impacting their turbine blades in the three years that followed. The four control wind turbines, on the other hand, recorded 18 bird deaths, a 71.9 percent drop in the annual fatality rate.
When I dug a little more into the statistics, I discovered that bird deaths differed depending on the season. There were fewer bird deaths at the painted turbines in the spring and autumn. However, throughout the summer, bird mortality increased at the painted turbines, and the authors point out that the study’s limited sample size and short duration both call for longer-term replication studies, both at Smla and elsewhere.