4 Things That Kill More Birds Than Wind Farms

Duke Energy, the operator of two major wind farms in Wyoming, was recently fined $1 million dollars for eagles and other birds killed by wind turbines. Although I’ve got little love for Duke Energy (they single-handedly killed 900,000 fish in North Carolina), I do care about the continued expansion of wind power in this country.

This case brings the cyclical debate of wildlife vs. clean energy to the federal level. Yes, I meant cyclical. Here’s how it usually goes (in my head):

1. “Fossil fuels are killing the planet and everything on it (including birds). Let’s switch to renewables like solar and wind.”
2. “Oh man, birds are being killed by wind turbines, and I love birds and believe endangered species should be protected.
3. “Punish the wind farms for killing birds!”
4. “Wait, if we stop building wind farms, or use $1 million fines to discourage companies from building them, it just continues our dependence on fossil fuels.”
5. “See number 1.”

Then I did a little bit of research, looking to bird conservation experts about what the biggest threats are to bald eagle and golden eagle populations (the two kinds of birds that prompted the fine in Wyoming).

Interestingly, I didn’t find a single one that named wind energy development as a major threat. In fact, when you compare the numbers, wind turbines are a relatively small threat (responsible for about 13 deaths a year), and there are some easy things we can do to alert birds to this new danger.

4 Things That Kill More Protected Birds Than Wind Farms

1. DDT: Depending on your age, you might remember that bald eagles nearly went extinct in the 1960s because of the widespread use of a pesticide called DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane). While this toxin didn’t kill the eagles outright, it compromised the integrity of their egg shells, killing many eagle chicks before they had the chance to be born. The eagle population plummeted until the U.S. government banned DDT in 1973. However, other countries, like Mexico, still allow its use. Unfortunately, wind carries DDT across the man-made borders, so our bird populations are still affected.

2. Electrocution: According to researchers at Vanderbilt University, electrocution is among the top five causes of bald eagle, golden eagle and raptor deaths. These fatalities occur when the large birds land on power lines, and their wings or feet accidentally touch two lines and form a circuit. Bald eagles may also fly directly into power lines that are not visible in poor weather conditions. Both situations kill the bird instantly.

3. Lead: Most people know that it’s illegal to kill or harm a bald eagle in any way, so poaching, while still a problem, is rare. However, the hunting of other species can still kill these majestic birds. “Lead poisoning has become one of the primary causes of death for bald eagles. This poisoning occurs when the bald eagle feeds off carrion (dead animals) that have been shot with lead bullets,” explains Eagles.org. Particularly at risk are warm climates where the bald eagle likes to spend the winter, as these tend to be popular duck and waterfowl hunting grounds.

4. Habitat Destruction: Human development, particularly in coastal and mountainous areas, is another leading cause of eagle deaths. “…eagles depend on shoreline habitats and aquatic food sources, human development in these coveted areas poses the greatest threat to the bald eagle’s survival,” explains Eagles.org “In addition, the cutting of ‘old growth forests’ where bald eagles prefer to nest and perch has conflicted with the interests of people seeking lumber for housing and commercial products.”

Is Renewable Energy More Important Than Conservation?

These threats to protected birds have been known for a long time, yet you don’t see anyone dishing out $1 million fines to hunting organizations, commercial developers or customers of the electric company. The point is that we need to shift away from fossil fuels immediately. Oil and coal are finite resources, and every minute we spend addicted to them is speeding climate change, destroying habitat and threatening the survival of every species, including our own.

Instead of punishing wind farms, let’s work to find solutions that will allow turbines and birds to coexist. At least one scientist suggested that painting wind turbines another color besides white could help, in addition to keeping wind farms away from migratory zones. Also, there’s no rule that turbines have to sport three massive, bird-killing blades. Bird-safe turbine designs like this one could go along way toward minimizing fatalities.

Photo Credit: Thinkstock


Jim Wiegand
Jim Wiegand11 months ago

Another good article that describes some of the various methods being used to rig wind industry mortality data. Big Wind & Avian Mortality (Part I & Part 2)

This article that exposes a rapidly declining golden eagle population "EAGLE

An article that discusses some of the history behind the industry rigged research. "THE 28 YEAR WIND INDUSTRY COVER-UP" Parts 1&2

A very good article article about wimpy lawsuits that let this industry off the hook. "Bald and Golden Eagles Victorious: Court Invalidates 30-Year “Eagle Take” Rule" (feds vs. federal law)

Readers will be further enlightened about the industry's rigged research if they view the YouTube video ................."Cheeseburgers and the wind industry".

Jim Wiegand
Jim Wiegand11 months ago

This article discusses the 31,000 (2015 numbers) unaccounted for eagle carcasses that have been sent to the Denver Repository since 1997. In this 3 part article even former FWS agents speak out.......... "Voice of Dead

Additional hidden eagle carcass information and dismal wind energy production numbers are available for congress in this 2 part article "Clean Energy Producers Act of 2015 (H.R. 493): Eagle Slaughter Amnesty
for Industrial Wind".

Here is an excellent article that describes some of the various methods being used to rig wind industry mortality data. "Exposing the wind industry genocide" - The ECOReport

Jim Wiegand
Jim Wiegand11 months ago

@Joseph Glackin..........I would bet that your IQ is at least 40 points less than mine. In other words I might as well be talking to a chimpanzee. For all other readers, if you care about the future, read about this fraudulent industry in my many articles. These articles below clearly explain the environmental destruction, the corruption and fraud taking place with Wind energy. In these articles is proof that none of the industry's studies since 1985 have been scientific and that they are rigged to hide mortality.


Jim Wiegand
Jim Wiegand11 months ago

This article is complete nonsense because wind turbines produce so little of the energy needed by society. In other words they are no solution.
I wrote a new #5 and added two more that tell the truth.

5. Millions of turbines could smother this country and it still would not be a solution to America's energy needs.
6. Dozens of species become extinct while this country pursues this madness.
7. Washington DC finally admits that wasting trillions have been wasted because wind turbines, biomass energy and solar can only meet about 10 percent of this country's energy needs,

Joseph Glackin
Joseph Glackin11 months ago

That was not my data. It came from Sibley's--the premier bird records/identification company in the nation. Lie out of that, jimboy.

Joseph Glackin
Joseph Glackin11 months ago

Jim Weigand is a lying pos. Your neighborhood cats kill 100x the number of birds that wind turbines do. They are not even the biggest killer. Buildings and windows are.

Jim Wiegand
Jim Wiegand11 months ago

The cornerstone for the wind industry wind industry is fraud and one of the major killers of birds is fraudulent research and ignorant authors taking bogus data from rigged studies.

For those that can not remember, the first big lie from this industry started in the late 1970's with claims that wind energy would get us off Middle Eastern oil. Of course looking back over 4 decades with 20/20 hindsight we now know that wind energy has had a zero impact on our consumption of this oil.

Then over time this lie evolved to the messianic lie about wind energy being able help to save mankind by fixing climate change. It is hard to imagine such stupidity when a single blade of grass will produce more O2 than every wind turbine that will ever be made.

Then there is the blade strike mortality that has put dozens of species on a fast track to extinction, all being hidden behind a culture of not reporting fatalities and the research of shill experts that should be sitting in prison. The last truly scientific wind industry study dealing with mortality was published in 1985. The rest are bogus.

In the end the lies do not matter as long as these turbines get sold to the public.

Carrie-Anne Brown

thanks for sharing :)

Rosemary H.
Rosemary H.2 years ago

How did I miss this one? Just check Save the Eagles International!

Never mind the cyclical debate. Yes, it starts like that, and then you discover all the other things wrong with wind 'energy' - it's very inefficient for one, hence the quotes. Soon you want to know about the other renewables we could be developing instead of wind.

And never mind the 'other things kill more birds..' debate. Birds are in decline. Everything that kills them had to be taken more seriously.

Angela A.
Angela A.2 years ago

While this may be true for those specific windfarms in WY, nationally they cause far more deaths than you are recognizing. Yes, I pulled this from Wikipedia, but it is pulled from academic sources that I have used in reporting (I am a biologist who works on impacts of wind projects to avian species, and am pro-clean energy AND pro-bird): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Bird_mortality.svg. Cats are the number one killer (which is why mine is always indoors), followed by T-lines, hunting, and windows at all about the same level of take. The wind turbine number is much much smaller, but it is no drop in the bucket, and is unfortunately still poorly understood. We also must acknowledge here that clearance of land for wind farms and the roads, T-lines, and other structures that go along with them, falls under the category of habitat destruction/impact. As I said, I'm pro-clean energy, and I'm not advocating "punishment" of wind companies, but I am advocating understanding of the issue and accountability.