Britain’s Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), which is usually pro-wind power, has criticised plans to build 47 wind turbines in Flow Country in the Scottish Highlands, home to the rare Wood Sandpiper (Tringa Glareola), which has only thirty pairs of birds nesting in the whole of the UK.
RSPB spokesman Kenny Graham said “We are urging the applicant to consider if this is really a suitable place to build a large-scale wind farm.“
Although the RSPB is generally in favour of wind farms, it does acknowledge some of the damage that wind turbines can do to birds “The available evidence suggests that wind farms can harm birds.”
Some recent research may persuade the RSPB to review its general policies in more detail.
ICF International published a paper stating: “Prior to 2007, fatalities documented by wind company O&M … are biased low to an unknown degree, likely resulting in an underestimate of the reduction in both fatality rates and total APWRA-wide fatalities over time.”
The disturbing truth is that some are especially vulnerable, being catapulted by the blades of a wind turbine. Also, with their wings broken, the birds, unable to fly, walk away from the vicinity to die.
In Spain, the Spanish Ornithological Society (TSOS) estimates that the country’s 18,000 wind turbines cause between six and eighteen million bird deaths a year. This works out at an average of 333 to 1,000 birds per turbine.
The TSOS is backed up by a paper by Benner et al from 1993 that estimates deaths per turbine at “..309 in Germany and 895 in Sweden.”
Bats too seem at high risk from wind farms. A study by the University of Colorado suggested that 600,000 bats are killed annually by wind turbines. It is not only onshore as bats also fly to offshore wind farms in search of insects. The turbines draw in insects by the suction effect of the blades, which the bats dutifully follow.
Meanwhile, the American Bird Conservancy have just announced they are suing President Obama for exempting wind farms from fines for killing raptors, unlike the oil companies who are heavily fined. For example, Exxon was fined $600,000 for killing 85 birds in five states in 2009. The wind industry hitherto, seems to have had a privileged life.
Man made climate change, fact or fiction, and the consequent increasing use of wind energy, heavily subsidised by government, has unintended consequences for the bird population. How long might it be before a bird of prey becomes a sight only available in a museum, dressed by a taxidermist?