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Birds That Go "Bump" in the Night

Dec 29, 2010


wind turbines in Kansas

Most of us are aware of human/wildlife conflicts such as the animal fatalities we see so often along highways. I just read an article from the January 2011 issue of "Birding" magazine, the publication of the American Birding Association, that describes a conflict that may be news to you. The article summarizes results from studies of bird fatalities from collisions with communication towers (cell phone, radio and television towers) and wind turbines. The dramatic increase in cell towers and wind turbines in recent years has focused more attention on the wildlife effects of these structures on the landscape. Bats are also known to die from such collisions or even near-collisions with wind turbines.

The birds most affected (70 to 80 percent of fatalities in the eastern United States) are those that migrate at night, which are mostly songbirds. The birds will collide with communication towers as well as the guy wires that support the towers. The height of a tower and the type of lights on the tower affect the number of bird fatalities. Here are some results of the studies:

• The fatalities were about four times greater at towers taller than 1,000 feet, compared to towers of 380 to 485 feet.

• There were 16 times more fatalities at guyed towers than at unguyed towers of the same height with the same lighting.

• Fatalities were reduced by 50 to 71 percent by replacing steady burning red lights with flashing red or white lights.

Bird fatalities at wind turbines, which lack guy wires, are considerably lower than at the communication towers, regardless of the type of lighting. The average number of wind turbine collision fatalities across the United States is three to four birds per turbine per year. Other studies have shown that wind turbines can have other negative effects on wildlife, unrelated to the collision potential.

The studies provide another example of how development can affect wildlife in unexpected ways. An encouraging result is that merely changing the type of lighting on tall communication towers with guy wires may significantly reduce the threat to migrating birds.



if it is good for the wild lif e do it

Gorby,Another impact of wind turbines is that they can be detrimental to some prairie birds like prairie chickens. Because prairie chickens have to fear hawk attacks and hawks often perch in trees, prairie chickens do not like to use habitats where they see tall structures. Prairie chickens might stop using a prairie that had wind turbines on the horizon. I also read that bats can be killed by wind turbine blades that don't even hit them, just from the air pressure differential around the spinning blades.

Just another tea partier who thinks man has absolutely no impact on the world around him.

Thank you for doing studies like this. It is very valuable information that by only changing the kind of lighting we can lower fatalities by 50-71%. I am interested in what the "other negative impact on wildlife" are. I doubt they are as significant as using fossil fuels.

yeah why can't we spend money on food for kids and the poor! Stop wasting my tax dollars on stupid studies that don't have much affect on anything. Birds will live and you folks need to really do your job, arrest those that poach and rob us blind!

Anonymous: I'm not sure if you are including me or this department under the heading of "you people." We did not fund or participate in the studies that were referenced in the article. If you live in Missouri, your state tax dollars were not used for the studies. I thought the findings were interesting. I did not call for a moratorium on construction of towers or wind turbines. I do think we need to be aware of the effects of development on the natural world if we wish to keep the benefits that we currently enjoy in the outdoors and pass that heritage on to our descendents. Studies indicate that most Missourians care about conserving forests, fish and wildlife.

Why cant we quit spending money on studies like this. It is time for you people to get a life. How about all of you bleeding hearts live in a tent and ride a bike. Birds could fly into your fancy house or you may hit one with your car. Get a job that benefits us all and quit wasting my tax dollars! Ask our founding fathers what they think. Wake up people!!!

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