Birds & Bats


Wind energy company kills 150 eagles in US, pleads guilty

AP News, Matthew Brown
A subsidiary of one of the largest U.S. providers of renewable energy pleaded guilty to criminal charges and was ordered to pay over $8 million in fines and restitution after at least 150 eagles were killed at its wind farms in eight states. ESI Energy was also sentenced to five years probation after being charged with three counts of violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Almost all of the eagles were struck by the blades of wind turbines. Because the carcasses are not always found, officials said the number killed was likely higher than the 150 birds cited in court documents. Prosecutors said the company’s failure to take steps to protect eagles or to obtain permits to kill the birds gave it an advantage over competitors that did take such steps. It follows a renewed commitment by federal wildlife officials under Biden to enforce protections for eagles and other birds under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

New York Fast-Track Renewable Energy Regulation Paves Way for High-Risk Wind Project
American Bird Conservancy, Joel Merriman
A proposed wind energy facility in Orleans County, New York, is among the first projects proposed under the state’s new renewable energy development law. This law ignores well-established best practices that would minimize impacts to birds, despite outcry from bird conservation organizations. The Orleans County project is located in a major migratory pathway for birds, and adjacent to a high-biodiversity wetland complex that supports nesting Bald Eagles and many rare species, including the Sedge Wren, Short-eared Owl, and Black Tern. We need renewable energy to combat climate change but we must not let our shared sense of urgency overwhelm our responsibility to protect vulnerable bird populations.

Environmentally safe energy: Who says so?
Niagara Gazette, Douglas Domedion
The town of Barre, in Orleans County, will see 33 of these 700-foot wind turbines constructed. I’m concerned about this because the turbine field starts about one mile from the state Oak Orchard Wildlife Management Area. That’s 2,500 acres of rich wetland environment set aside for the benefit of wildlife and the enjoyment of many types of outdoor enthusiasts. It’s where there presently are two active eagle nests and several osprey nests. Where hundreds of thousands of waterfowl stop to rest during their spring and fall migrations. Where sandhill cranes, and uncommon species such as the black tern, short-eared owl, Least Bitterns and American Bitterns nest and roam. Then we have another 11,000 acres of federal refuge (Iroquois) and 5,684 acres in the state Tonawanda WMA that start only 5 miles away from this future industrial wind development. What effects these wind turbines will have on wildlife. There really hasn’t been a lot of serious surveying done on that question. What about birds that migrate at night? What about bat migration? How much disturbance to nesting birds might there be?

Are Wind Turbines a Significant Threat to Birds?
American Bird Conservancy, Joel Merriman
Wind and solar energy infrastructure are threats to birds. It is important to consider that wind turbines do not have the same impact on all birds. Some bird species are more susceptible to collisions with turbines, and some are less capable of sustaining losses than others due to their reproductive ecology. The threat posed by wind turbines grows with each facility constructed in a high-risk area for birds. We can’t throw caution to the wind when it comes to our vulnerable and declining bird populations.

How Many Birds Are Killed by Wind Turbines?
American Bird Conservancy, Joel Merriman
Wind energy development has a substantial negative impact on birds. The best estimates of the number of birds killed by wind turbines in the U.S. each year are based on a trio of studies published in 2013 and 2014. Adjusting for industry growth and energy produced it can be projected that approximately 681,000 birds are currently killed by wind turbines in the U.S. each year. Also many wind facilities are located far from the existing power grid and require the construction of new power lines, which are yet another source of bird mortality. Wind facilities also require relatively large areas of land. Facility development can fragment or otherwise alter habitat in ways that make it unsuitable for species that have historically been present. Wind turbines need appropriate siting to avoid high-risk areas for birds.

More bird species in their vicinity increase life satisfaction of Europeans as much as higher income
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research, Halle-Jena-Leipzig
A high biodiversity in our vicinity is as important for life satisfaction as our income, scientists found. All across Europe, the individual enjoyment of life correlates with the number of surrounding bird species. A particularly high number of bird species can be found in areas with a high proportion of near-natural and diverse landscapes that hold numerous greenspaces and bodies of water. Biological diversity is currently undergoing a dramatic decline. This poses the risk that human well-being will also suffer from an impoverished nature. Nature conservation therefore not only ensures our material basis of life, but it also constitutes an investment in the well-being of us all.

The Red-Hot, Hardly Serene Green vs. Green New Deal
RealClear Investigations, Vince Bielski
Much of the opposition to the IceBreaker Wind offshore turbine project in Lake Erie is coming from other environmental groups, including the National Audubon Society and the Black Swamp Bird Observatory, that seek to protect birds from lethal collisions with turbines. There is a growing tension among environmentalists as they weigh the costs of clean energy.

Wind Energy Neglecting Bats
Merlin Tuttle’s Bat Conservation, Dr. Merlin Tuttle
The cumulative impact of wind power facilities in killing migratory bats threatens to become an environmental crisis that cannot be ignored. By 2012, more than 600,000 bats were being killed annually. By 2014, this number had risen to 2.22 million annually, and the number is likely substantially higher today. At current rates of wind industry expansion and resulting bat mortality, additional species almost certainly will be driven into endangered status, risking a backlash from traditional environmentalist supporters, not to mention the cost of increased endangered species mitigation and litigation. Wind companies need to avoids high-risk locations, incorporate approved mitigation techniques and collaborate with scientists to monitor mortality and improve problem solving techniques.

Fear a world with no bats
Olean Times Herald, Jonathan Townsend
Bats are extremely important to every ecosystem they inhabit, they are critical components of the agricultural industry and they have a significant, positive impact on public health. Wind turbines, through direct collisions and barotrauma, kill hundreds of thousands to millions of bats annually in the U.S.The proposed Alle-Catt wind energy facility is projected to kill between 26,000-39,500 bats. These beleaguered species’ populations cannot sustain that rate of mortality, and we ignore this fact at our own peril.

Subsidizing The Slaughter: Big Wind Kills Another Bald Eagle, Gets More Federal Subsidies

Forbes, Robert Bryce
“The bottom line here is that “green energy” isn’t free. It depends on multi-billion-dollar infusions from the federal treasury. The wind industry has been given a license to kill America’s wildlife and taxpayers are subsidizing the slaughter.
Mike Parr, the president of the American Bird Conservancy, says his group is not anti-wind and that it is seeking a “middle-ground” on regulations. But he also said that “The wind industry could prevent a lot of these bird kills, but they don’t…The regulations have all been undone in their favor and against protection.”
Among the best-known studies of wind-related wildlife kills have been done by biologist K. Shawn Smallwood. In 2013, he published a study in the Wildlife Society Bulletin which estimated that in 2012 wind turbines killed about 888,000 bats and 573,000 birds, including 83,000 raptors. (A 2014 study published by the wind industry claimed turbines were killing about 368,000 birds per year.)
In 2012, the US had about 60,000 megawatts of wind capacity. Today, the industry has about 107,000 megawatts. Therefore if Smallwood’s numbers are correct and bird kills are occurring at the same rate today as they were in 2012, then Big Wind may now be killing about 1 million birds per year, including roughly 150,000 raptors.”

Hoary bat numbers declining at rate that suggests species in jeopardy in Pacific Northwest
Science Daily, Oregon State University
The hoary bat, the species of bat most frequently found dead at wind power facilities, is declining at a rate that threatens its long-term future in the Pacific Northwest, according to a novel and comprehensive research collaboration.

Why Wind Turbines Threaten Endangered Species With Extinction
Forbes, Michael Shellenberger
Scientists say wind turbines are the single greatest human threat to migratory bats, which live in different habitats during summer and winter months. Wind turbines have also emerged as one of the greatest human threats to many species of large, threatened and high-conservation value birds, after habitat loss from agriculture. The decline of insect populations may be worsening the threat to endangered bird and bat species. Scientists in Germany say wind turbines appear to be contributing significantly to what it calls the “insect die-off.”

Is Noise Pollution the Next Big Public-Health Crisis?
The New Yorker, David Owen
This New Yorker Magazine article describes how noise does not only have negative impacts on humans but also on animals:

‘They mounted fifteen pairs of bullhorn-like loudspeakers on the trunks of Douglas-fir trees, and, during bird migration in autumn, played recordings of traffic… The recorded sound wasn’t deafening, by any measure; to a New Yorker, in fact, it might have seemed almost soothing. But its effect on migrating birds was both immediate and dramatic. During periods when the speakers were switched on, the number of birds declined, on average, by twenty-eight percent, and several species fled the area entirely. Some of the biggest impacts were on species that stayed. Heidi Ware Carlisle, who earned her master’s degree for work that she did on the project, told me, “If you just counted MacGillivray’s warblers, for example, you might say, ‘Oh, they’re not bothered by noise.’ But when we weighed them we found that they were no longer getting fatter—as they should have been, because fat fuels their migration.”’

Why Climate Activiists Threaten Endangered Species With Extinction
Forbes, Michael Shellenberger
Come on, you might be thinking. Surely there are greater threats to migratory bats than wind turbines? There aren’t. “Wind energy facilities kill a significant number of bats far exceeding any documented natural or human-caused sources of mortality in the affected species,” writes Cryan. Cryan is emphatic on this point. “There are no other well-documented threats to populations of migratory tree bats that cause mortality of similar magnitude to that observed at wind turbines.”

A Climate Conundrum: The Wind Farm Vs. The Eagle’s Nest
The New York Times, Joseph Goldstein
An eagle’s nest on Galloo Island in Lake Ontario has drawn attention to the safety of birds, and accusations of a cover-up have stalled a massive wind turbine project. A judge has questioned the integrity of one of the country’s largest wind farm developers, Apex Clean Energy.

Rising Human Activity Could Be Harming Endangered Species

The Post Journal
Mary Heyl
Wind energy is the single largest source of mortality in bats


Water and wings: what Chautauqua County stands to lose
Observer Today
Mary Heyl
“I know that the temptation is there to have a more financially viable project, but if you can’t do it right, then it shouldn’t be done.” To him, wind energy companies’ drive to create more power — and more money — points to a systemic problem and the environment may pay the ultimate price. “As a species, we really need to stop putting as much focus on money. Obviously, we all need it and rely on it. But it’s not the most important thing in the world. We can’t buy back the bats that are being lost,” he said.

State’s first Article 10 wind project seeks more changes
Observer Today
Mary Heyl
“The cumulative impact of these wind projects has not been properly publicized or assessed,” he said. “Each project states that their impacts will be ‘minimal,’ yet they fail to address the additional mortality from each new project. … Once these turbines are up, they will begin killing bats for as long as they are operational, and the more that are installed, the worse the problem will become, so we need to consider this very carefully.”

2018 articles

Agencies earn right to challenge wind farm studies
Watertown Daily Times
Marcus Wolf
Both the state departments of Public Service and Environmental Conservation said in letters dated Nov. 2 that they have withdrawn from the particular stipulations due to Apex’s decision not to divulge the knowledge of the nest and the lack of studies to address it.

Wind farm ‘predator’ effect hits ecosystems: study
Patrick Galey
They found that predatory raptor birds were four times rarer in areas of plateau where wind turbines were present, a disruption that cascaded down the food chain and radically altered the density and behavior of the birds’ prey.  In particular, the team observed an explosion in the raptors’ favorite meal, fan-throated lizards, in areas dominated by the turbines.

Wind farm review faces possible extension after eagle nest details were withheld
Watertown Daily Times
Marcus Wolf
Wind farm review faces possible extension after eagle nest details were withheld. “When an applicant withholds information regarding the environmental conditions in a siting application and those conditions are relevant and material to the agencies’ review of the application and negotiation of stipulations and studies to be performed, it raises serious questions about the applicant’s character and fitness.”

Bird populations decrease in areas adjacent to wind turbines – UCC study
Raidió Teilifís Éireann, Ireland’s National Public Service Broadcaster.
Will Goodbody
He and colleagues surveyed birds at 12 upland wind farms and found that populations of birds were 10% lower in areas close to where the wind turbines were built. Forest species like Chaffinches, Great tits or Goldcrests are the most affected as commercial plantation forests are cleared to make way for turbines and wind farm tracks,” said Dr Fernández-Bellon. “Most people are familiar with the problem of bird collisions with wind turbine blades, but this study highlights how indirect effects, such as the alteration of habitats, can also be important.”

Red light spells danger for bats near wind turbines
Sarah Knapton
“Bats are at a higher collision risk at wind power stations during their autumn migration,” explains Oliver Lindecke, co-author of the study. “Our study indicates that the use of red light signals could have fatal consequences for them as this appears to attract them to operating wind turbines.”

Birds, bats and wind turbines often compete for airspace
The Blade
Tom Henry
The battlefront in this region has become a microcosm of the larger, political tug-of-war over valuable land and airspace that many people agree is probably going to get worse before it gets better.

Wind farms affect small birds too
The Applied Ecologist’s Blog (official blog for Journal of Applied Ecology)
Julia Gomez-Catasus, Vincente Garza, Juan Traba
Due to their low detect-ability and high rate of carcass disappearance, fatality records of small-sized species are scarce and studies based on collision fatality records might be underestimating the impacts of wind farms on these species.

2016-2017 articles

Commentary: Wind turbines around the Great Lakes? A terrible idea for birds, bats

Chicago Tribune
Michael Hutchins, director of the American Bird Conservancy’s Bird-Smart Wind Energy campaign
The rush is on to build scores of large, commercial wind energy facilities in and around the Great Lakes, in Canada and the United States. From the proposed Galloo Island and Lighthouse projects in New York to Camp Perry and Icebreaker in Ohio and Amherst Island and White Pines in Ontario, developers are looking to flood the region with renewable energy. But at what cost?

Wind Energy And Birds FAQ — Part 1: Understanding The Threat
American Bird Conservancy
Michael Hutchins
When it comes to wind energy, siting is everything. The risks are, of course, much greater when wind turbines are placed in areas attracting large concentrations of birds and bats12. When wind energy projects are located in or near major migratory routes, stopover sites, or key breeding or foraging areas, the losses are expected to be great.

Wind farms could be killing 80,000 bats a year, new study finds
Sarah Knapton
A survey of 29 wind farms showed that 194 bats a month were killed, although the figure is likely to be higher because many of the dead creatures would have fallen prey to scavengers.
The research also showed that the risk of bat death increased by 18 per cent for each extra meter of blade length. Some individual turbines were found to kill around five bats a month.

Bird Concerns Lead To Denial of Saskatchewan Wind Farm (Canada)

Citing the protection of migratory birds, the Saskatchewan environment minister announced that the Algonquin Power 177MW project in Chaplin will not proceed.

Hiding Evidence of the Massacre (Scotland and England)
Biased, misleading studies financed by the wind industry are reassuring the public that industrial wind turbines will not only avoid killing eagles but lead us to believe that eagles will actually thrive. Yet, one Australian wind farm killed 7 eagles within a 4 month period revealing that raptors are actually attracted to turbines and that turbines pose a greater threat than previously thought.

Wind energy company sues to keep bird kill data out of public’s hands (Ohio)

Blue Creek Wind Farm (owned by Spanish company Iberdrola) has sued two Ohio state agencies to prevent them from revealing bird and bat kill statistics to the public. The company is claiming that it would be revealing “trade secrets.”

Birding in the Towns of Yates and Somerset
The Great Backyard Bird Count: The Great Backyard Bird Count is a popular citizen science event where people collect valuable information on the health of bird populations all over the world.  It’s free and easy to participate.

2015 articles

How green is the Wind Industry?
One could believe that the wind industry, with its focus on renewable energy, would also be a consistent champion of wildlife conservation, but it doesn’t always behave that way.

Wind Power and Bats
Of New York’s nine species of bats, the three species of tree bats (red, hoary, silver-haired) do not hibernate in caves or buildings during the winter, but migrate to warmer climes. For these migratory species, the relatively new upsurge in the use of wind energy poses a threat.

2014 articles

Snowy Owls add intrigue to the landscape

KENDALL – Readers have been sending photos of Snowy Owls to Orleans Hub in the last two weeks after sending many last winter when Snowy Owls were here in a historic migration, perhaps the biggest in a half century.

It’s Time for Independent Monitoring of Wildlife Kills at Renewable Energy Sites
Last month, an Oregon-based wind energy company filed suit to block the federal government from releasing information on bird kills at the firm’s 13 wind-power sites nationwide.

Massive Huron County, Michigan Wind Development Planned for Key Migratory Bird Corridor
Under FWS’ current voluntary permitting guidelines, wind energy companies are not required to apply for incidental take permits under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act or the ESA when the project sits on private property. ABC asserts that this is a loophole allowing wind developers to kill federally protected birds with impunity.

Hawk Migration Association of North America’s wind turbine siting policy
The Hawk Migration Association of North America’s official mission is to conserve raptor populations through the scientific study, enjoyment and appreciation of raptor migration. HMANA is concerned about the threat posed by industrial wind energy developments to migrating‭, ‬nesting and wintering raptors.

2012-2013 articles

Wind Storm: Whistleblower alleges gag order prevented State Park employees from revealing harm…x

The former Superintendent of the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park (ABDSP) has contacted East County Magazine to allege a cover-up by the State Parks Department and the Governor of serious impacts that the proposed Ocotillo Express wind project would have on our largest state park and its natural resources.

Migratory Bird Stopover Project (pdf)

Lake Ontario Migratory Bird Stopover Maps

Confessions of a windfarm bird-kill “control specialist”
Written by a bird-kill control specialist hired by the wind turbine company to disposes the bird and bat carcasses as quickly as possible to hide them from view, this poem documents the experience of “following death around,” as he titles it.

Birding in and around the Towns of Yates and Somerset 2021

Lake Ontario Migratory Songbird Study

American Bird Conservancy explains the Top 10 Myths About Wind Energy And Birds
Wind energy does have an impact on wildlife and habitats. This article addresses common misconceptions about industrial wind development.

American Bird Conservancy discusses wind turbines and the Great Lakes
Wind turbines on the Great Lakes threaten migratory birds and bats.
author of both articles: Michael Hutchins, Director of ABC’s Bird-Smart Energy Program

Braddock Bay Bird Observatory
Braddock Bay Bird Observatory is a non-profit organization dedicated to ornithological research, education and conservation.  BBBO is operated entirely by volunteers, with the financial support of our members.  Our primary research and education facility, the Kaiser-Manitou Beach Banding Station, is located on the south shore of Lake Ontario northwest of Rochester, NY.

Braddock Bay Raptor Research (BBRR)
is a 501(c)-3 non profit, volunteer based organization.  Founded in 1986, BBRR has been continuously working towards preserving the area’s natural resources by focusing research and education activities on the spectacular spring raptor migration, and summer natal dispersal.  Braddock Bay is a bird migration “hot spot” located on the southern shore of Lake Ontario just northwest of Rochester, New York. Millions of birds migrate through the area every spring as they head north to their breeding grounds.

Why the Eagles Returned
A 2013 video applicable to the growing eagle population along the south shore of Lake Ontario.
Delaware Highlands Conservancy at on Vimeo
In 1972, there was a single pair of nesting American Bald Eagles left in New York state. Today, there are hundreds in New York, Pennsylvania and surrounding states. What does the story of the American Bald Eagle’s return teach us about the impact we have on our environment, and our responsibility to conserve our shared habitat?

Informative Tables and charts regarding wildlife in the Southwest Lake Ontario Basin (pdf)

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