Wind farms aren't a major cause of bird deaths

It's hard to say how many birds are killed by collisions with wind turbines. The high end of the estimates top out around 450,000 birds each year in the United States. But even that doesn't come close to making wind turbines a major killer of American birds. Among the things that kill far, far, far more birds than wind power: Buildings, cars, and house cats. (Thanks, Uncle Bruce!)


  1. alright, BoingBoing, can you please now debunk the remaining 2 crackpot anti-wind arguements:  1)  ice accumulates on the blades and then is propelled off once it reaches critical mass creating a deadly “iceknife”  2)  the strobing created by the blades passing in  front of the sun will drive you to madness.

  2. No, but if we keep increasing the number of things that kill birds…

    I’m still amazed at the number of pigeons that get run over by busses in one particular area near where I live. I know they’re not the brightest of birds, but you’d think they’d notice a bus coming at them at walking speed…

    1.  I’ve hit lazy pigeons on my bike.  It’s kinda like that George Constanza “We have a deal!” thing, but some are really so slow and lazy that they take flight just a little too late…

      1. I’m all for wind power and wanted to join a program from the power company to receive only wind generated power but it would cost me $200 a year more than what I pay now and the economy is kind of bad right now so I can’t afford it.  I haven’t heard anything about an ice knife but if you want to know what the flicker is like, see for yourself:!  There’s a plan in our state to put wind farms out in the desert were nothing slows the wind down (trees, buildings, mountains, etc) and there are 7,000 people living in an area of 10,000 square miles.  Best possible thing?  I think so.

    2. I’m not terribly concerned about pigeons, being an amazingly successful invasive species outside of Eurasia, but you have a point.   The Maryland DNR recently reported that our sole wind farm could halve the number of extremely endangered Indiana bats killed by slowing turbines in gentle wind conditions during migration periods with minimal loss of productivity (something like less than 1%).   Of course, only around 30 of said bats were projected to be hit in the project’s 20 year lifespan.   While the real threat to Indiana bats is the fungus causing White Nose Syndrome, and the visiting humans that the fungus was probably transported from Europe on, it might not hurt to take precautions.

      On the other hand, any possible negitive ecological effect of wind turbines is just one dead pigeon compared to shit like oil spills, global climate change, strip mining, acidic rain streams and run-off, hydro-fraking, etc. from other methods of energy production, right?

      1. Exactly. I have yet to see a dead-birds-per-megawatt comparison between wind power and hydrocarbon-fired power plants. How many birds died in the Deepwater oil spill? How many birds have died and will die due to climate change?

  3. Yesbut: which birds.  Cats kill a lot of small birds, but wind turbines are implicated in killing raptors, which are typically more fragile (if not to cats).

    That said, Lamar Alexander is, as always, full of shit and profoundly intellectually dishonest.  He’d probably shoot 400,000 birds a year if he could get away with it.

    The other technology implicated in mass bird deaths isn’t mentioned here at all: guyed cell towers.

  4. Wind turbines most often kill birds that aren’t at risk by cats or large buildings. They kil lmigrating birds including raptors, eagles and owls, as well as smaller birds and bats. The bigger birds are long-lived and have low reproductive rates. They’re like the grizzly bears of the bird world. They have no way to compensate for excessive mortality.  Killing them by not being careful where wind turbines are sited is the way to lose them entirely.

    1. Exactly. 

      As Daemonworks pointed out, we can’t keep increasing the number of things that kill birds and expect their populations to remain healthy.
      Wind power doesn’t have to kill birds and bats, or at least not as many as it currently does, but we can’t trust Big Wind to follow voluntary guidelines.

  5. Plus, there’s a lot of friggin’ birds, so who cares?. Maybe just put some baskets under those wind farms and funnel them into a meat processing plant. That’s protein a-goin’ to waste.

  6. The percentage of birds killed by wind farms is high in relation to the number of wind farms, and more wind farms will kill more birds.  There are only thousands of wind generators, and millions of buildings and vehicles, so of course they kill more birds.  We should be modifying our buildings and vehicles to be less lethal to other creatures, not inventing a whole new class of killing machine.

  7. House cats kill an estimate one billion birds per year. One of my favorite arguments against cats, really. (ducking now)

  8. The reason that we (humans) are killing off species of all kinds is not because of the impact of any single hazard that we introduce into their habitat.  It is the CUMULATIVE EFFECT of all of the hazards that we introduce.  This is a fundamental principal of conservation and protection of species at risk and I’m frankly tired of people (mostly city people) that spout off the nonsense that buildings/cats/guy wires kill more species.  That doesn’t matter. It is the cumulative effect after the new hazard is introduced (thousands of 550ft  towers with propellors that move at approximately 130 mph at normal operating speed) that has significant impact on avian population.  Does the additional stress of these hazards tip critically endangered species? None of you even mention the number one hazard to wildlife – reduced or degraded habitat.  

    The averages bird kill per turbine number that is the primary talking point of the industry (i.e. less than 2 birds/turbine/year) is meaningless.  Avian species mortality is site specific!  We’re don’t need to be concerned about turbines that are built where there is insignificant avian presence (part of the average calculation).  We need to be concerned that there aren’t any more Altamont Pass sites where large scale wind installations basically remove  endangered species from THEIR habitat.  So far, the wind/energy industry has never stood up and said “We won’t build in areas of high bird traffic, or endangered species habitat”.  Its the sites that are killing raptors, migrating species, and lots of bats that need to be “mitigated”  by shutting down at high traffic times – this is a real problem people. In many of those sites the energy company frankly just decides to buy a “take” certificate. But the real problem is bats not birds.  Raptors and geese and vultures don’t really have much of an impact on human life. We could lose 10-15 species in those categories and not a single city person would ever notice.  But bats – several species are under stress right now from the disease and now we’re putting up devices in some important areas that are highly efficient at removing the remaining bat population.   We need bats – insect control – pollination – they help us out a lot – they are friends of farmers.  Pay attention to this and lobby for mandatory regulation. Most energy companies don’t have a very good track record of trading off profit against environmental impacts.

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