Rhetoric vs. Reality: Wind Energy and Birds

Rhetoric: Wind turbines are killing birds at an alarming rate.

"[W]ind-powered turbines are killing a vast number of birds every year." ¹
–Robert Bryce, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute

"Bird deaths from wind power are the new inconvenient truth. The total number of birds killed and the amount of bird habitat lost will dramatically increase as wind power build-out continues across the country in a rush to meet federal renewable energy targets."²
–Mike Parr, Vice President of the American Bird Conservancy

The Reality: Wind power is far less harmful to birds than the fossil fuels it displaces. Incidental losses of individual birds at wind farm will always be an extremely small fraction of bird deaths caused by human activities.:

* Wind is the only source of energy that does not present population-level risks to birds, according to a study of coal, oil, natural gas, nuclear, hydroelectric, and wind power. ³

* Wind turbines are estimated to cause less than three out of every 100,000 human-related bird deaths in the U.S., and will never cause more than a very small fraction no matter how extensively wind power is used in the future, the National Academy of Sciences found. 4

* Wind power causes far fewer losses of birds (approximately 108,000 a year) than buildings (550 million), power lines (130 million), cars (80 million), poisoning by pesticides (67 million), domestic cats (at least 10 million), and radio and cell towers (4.5 million). 5

* Non-renewable energy sources "pose higher risks to wildlife" than renewable sources. Coal – which wind directly replaces – "is by far the largest contributor" to wildlife risks. 6

¹ " Windmills Are Killing Our Birds," Robert Bryce op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, September 7, 2009

² "Bird Deaths from Wind Farms to Continue Under New Federal Voluntary Industry Guidelines," American Bird Conservancy press release, February 8, 2011

3 6 "Comparison Of Reported Effects And Risks To Vertebrate Wildlife From Six Electricity Generation Types In The New York/New England Region," New York State Research and Development Authority, March 2009

4 "Environmental Impacts of Wind-Energy Projects," National Academy of Sciences, 2007

5"A Summary and Comparison of Bird Mortality from Anthropogenic Causes with an Emphasis on Collisions," USDA Forest Service, 2005