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Wind turbines kill far more birds than a statistical distribution would suggest. There is something deeply attractive to birds about wind turbines.
A few years ago the brilliant Willis Eschenbach explained it. His argument is quite simple: wind turbines murder eagles and other carrion-eaters because wind turbines kill insects:
Based on observations and model calculations, German researchers calculated that each wind turbine kills on the order of 12,000 insects per day, which is some 1,200 tonnes of dead insects per year in Germany alone. And for each bug that is killed, perhaps ten bugs are injured or dazed.
There is a near-vacuum on the back side of the blade. Just going suddenly from normal pressure to near-vacuum can cause a variety of injuries, including bursting the lungs of bats and birds.
So let’s follow the story, starting with the bugs. The turbine is acting like a giant bug-mincer. It is smashing bugs on the leading edges of the blades, just like the smashed bugs you get when you drive down the highway. It is injuring bugs through both turbulence and pressure changes. And it is constantly and invisibly spinning hundreds of both dead and wounded bugs, and lots of smelly bug-juice from the smashed insects, up into the sky.
What happens first, of course, is that the smell of the dead and wounded insects attract lots of other insects. Many insects are scavengers, and so more insects come to feed on the dead insects just like flies drawn to sh … well, you get the idea. So in addition to the bugs killed and wounded, we have all of the other very live bugs eating on them, and flying around between meals.
Now, remember what I said about the frogs eating the flies “before they hit the ground”? What happens next is that large numbers of both bats and insectivorous birds are drawn by the smell of thousands of dead and wounded insects. They do their very best to eat the dead and wounded insects before they hit the ground.
And when you mix large numbers of bats and insectivorous birds on the hunt, somewhat oblivious to their surroundings in pursuit of insect prey, with turbine blade tips going 230 miles an hour, that’s 370 km/hr, the outcome is unavoidable—large numbers of dead and wounded bats and birds.
This leads us to the punchline:
Of course, wherever you have large numbers of dead and wounded bats and birds, you’ll inevitably attract numbers of the large predatory or scavenging birds such as owls, buzzards, vultures, falcons, eagles, kites, buteos, accipiters, and harriers. They come in to eat the living, wounded, or dead birds and bats that came in to eat the living, wounded, or dead bugs … and of course, since these large predators too are on the hunt and somewhat oblivious to their surroundings, when you mix in the high-speed turbine blades the raptors suffer the same fate as the smaller birds, the bats, and the thousands of bugs. Killed and wounded.
All of this handily explains why wind turbines are where birds go for lunch. And as long as the turbine works, it will inevitably attract bugs, birds, and bigger birds. And then chop them up. It is seemingly inexorable. And it is also a fascinating unintended consequence that leads us to the conclusion that if we want to protect these birds we must oppose wind power.Published in