The wind energy people are in big denial about this subject and strictly control access to their sites so that no one other than themselves can collect data on wildlife kills which they minimize to the point of being ludicrous.
Their biased so-called “studies” are “published” only in their own brochures and Web sites; not in respected peer-reviewed scientific journals.
However, studies have been done in other countries and some biologists in America have managed to gather a few statistics. Damage to wildlife is still highly under-reported, however.
In Wisconsin and elsewhere, wind energy companies boast that they site their projects where they won’t damage wildlife, all the while they carefully select the most sensitive areas on well-known migration corridors to place their tallest turbines. Most songbirds migrate at night following ridges, escarpments, lakeshores and rivers. These are places where air currents are most favorable for migrants and apparently for turbines. Hawks and owls also follow the same routes. Not only do they crash into towers, rotating blades, guywires and transmission lines, they are also attracted to tower lights which distract them from the stars that guide them. They will circle bright lights in confusion like moths until, partly blinded by the lights, they hit something and are crippled or killed outright. Scavengers usually gather the crippled and dead before daylight, so most are never found.
Bats are even more vulnerable than birds for reasons unknown. Many hawks are also killed because though they migrate by day, some of them soar at the height of the propellers. Perhaps they are also attracted by the crippled birds. “They will avoid the towers,” say the wind energy advocates. Surely they could avoid airplanes too, coudn’t they? Yet U.S. airplane bird collisons are common with 6,360 reported in one year, sometimes causing planes to crash, thus requiring airports to use bird-hazing devices to scare them away. Even the Wright Brothers reported hitting a bird and their’s were not exactly speedy planes.
Some scientists also report that the ultrasonic noise produced by turbines, though inaudible to human ears, is easily heard by a variety of wildlife species. Some of these will move away from wind farm areas. Residents of eastern mountain areas have reported that wildlife left the mountains after wind turbines were installed. Deer came into towns causing much damage to landscape plantings. They say that they no longer see wild geese flying over. Some species of birds, including popular game birds, refuse to nest near wind factories.
Local naturalists have known for a long time that the Niagara Escarpment is such a migration corridor, north and south through eastern Wisconsin. Wind energy advocates claim only a few birds die in their deathtraps compared to the millions killed by collisions with cars, buildings and communications towers, plus more are killed by outdoor cats. This may even be true with turbine numbers at present, but we are about to add one more hazard that will slaughter millions of birds nationwide. Eventually all the hazards together will reduce many species to zero. I guess they rationalize that one type of massacre justifies another. After 35 years of studying birds in Calumet County I find that many species that used to be common are already rare or gone altogether.
While the actual number of birds killed by wind turbines is unknown, estimates have been made in the range of 30,000 to 60,000 per year at the current level of wind development. The wind industry is prepared to increase the number of turbines 30 fold over the next 20 years, which at the current estimated mortality rate means that the wind industry will be killing up to 1.8 million birds per year. Keep in mind that present mortality rates are for smaller turbines. Taller ones will kill many more. Species killed include many of the 25 percent of North American birds already in steep population decline. (From the testimony of Donald Michael Fry, PhD, director, Pesticides and Birds Program, American Bird Conservancy, May 1, 2007, Room 1324 Longworth House Office Building.) see: http://www.abcbirds.org/policy_wind_testimony.htm
I realize that those people who care only for money don’t care about birds at all and consider them either useless, or nuisances. But for many of us birds add greatly to our quality of life. And even if all you care about is money, it is worth considering that the insects that ravage some woodlands and crops were not such a problem before bird populations were decimated.
According to a study by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the U.S. Census Bureau in 1991, wild bird enthusiasts nationally spent $5.2 billion on bird observation, photography, and feeding. Bird hunters spent $1.3 billion. In 1992 it was estimated by USFWS that U.S. citizens spent about $2 billion per year for wild bird food and another $470 million for bird feeders and nestboxes. Since this figure is growing at a rate of eight to 10 percent per year, a bit of mathematics will tell you that wild birds are a very valuable national resource. They also bring many of us much joy.
23 November 2007
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