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Wind Turbines Kill a Few Birds 991

Guppy06 writes "The Houston Chronicle has an article about how a 7000-turbine windfarm in Altamont Pass, California (the world's largest collection) has killed an estimated 22,000 birds during the past 20 years or so of operation, 'including hundreds of golden eagles, red-tailed hawks, kestrels and other raptors(.)' There are efforts to keep the operators from renewing their permit until they take measures to protect bird populations. To put things in perspective the article goes on to point out that the Exxon Valdez spill is estimated to have killed around 250,000, while the whole story can just about be summed up by one quote by a biologist: 'When you turn on your lights you kill something, no matter what the source of electricity.'" Killing 3-4 birds per day doesn't seem too bad. It's a shame that larger, rarer birds are getting killed, but... How many birds would die from the acid rain that a coal power plant would cause?
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Wind Turbines Kill a Few Birds

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  • Solution ? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by zeux ( 129034 ) * on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @05:31PM (#7839087)
    Why not put big metal grid around each turbine ?

    My fan here has one so I can't put my fingers in. Maybe we could use grid with larger holes so the flow of wind wouldn't be disturbed too much and so it would prevent bigger birds of going through.

    I think it would cause some extra noise (wind going through the grid), cost some extra money and maybe lower the wind speed a little (and by the way lower efficiency) but that would definitely save the birds.

    But maybe 22000 birds over 20 years (that's a little more than 3 birds a day) are not worth the expense...

    Any solution with magnetic fields? I know that some birds use magnetic fields during their flight to find their destination... It could also help keeping birds out of the highway (60 millions/year in car collision ??? That's a LOT).
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @05:33PM (#7839131)
      Just put up a giant scarecrow in the middle of the turbine farm.
      • by Dirtside ( 91468 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @07:00PM (#7840198) Journal
        Just put up a giant scarecrow in the middle of the turbine farm.
        Yeah, let's erect an enormous scarecrow amidst a bunch of energy-generating machines. First time there's a lightning storm you just know there's gonna be some Frankenstein action going on, and then we've got a hundred-foot scarecrow rampaging across California, slashing budget programs and repealing taxes left and right... wait, that's the governor.

        On the plus side, we'd have to get Godzilla and Mothra to team up against the scarecrow, so, it wouldn't be a complete loss.

      • In this article Pamela Anderson takes on KFC [] (really - not a troll) it says KFC kills 750 million birds per year. Add that to McDonalds and you have over a billion/year. Puts some perspective on the turbines...

        (and it has a nice picture)

    • Re:Solution ? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Jhon ( 241832 )

      Why not put big metal grid around each turbine

      increase cost

      decrease efficiency

      increase need for maintainance (more cost)

      What animal (man included) doesn't effect his environment when acting within it's nature? That's a valid question. A few birds be damned -- lets look at the bigger picture.

      The answer is NOT to drop all our gizmo's and live in stone and thatch huts. At least if we don't want to see 3+ billion people die off of starvation and exposure.

      • by Rosco P. Coltrane ( 209368 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @06:02PM (#7839596)
        few birds be damned -- lets look at the bigger picture

        As a lovely woodpecker who's currently undergoing treatment in a small padded cage for psychological disorders following a close encounter with a huge wind turbine several years ago, I resent that remark.

    • by Washizu ( 220337 ) <> on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @05:36PM (#7839192) Homepage
      "Why not put big metal grid around each turbine?"

      Ever see a flock of birds stuck to a giant fan?

    • Re:Solution ? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by RobPiano ( 471698 ) *
      Would that work? I would think that too much other stuff would get clogged in the fan. Cleaning the fans out might raise the price to the point where it wouldn't be worth it. Then it would be like the cost of nuclear energy (cost > energy produced).

      I don't know the details... Is anyone an expert?
      • by cheeseSource ( 605209 ) <> on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @05:44PM (#7839316) Journal
        Just encase the fans in glass.

      • by dfenstrate ( 202098 ) < minus language> on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @08:14PM (#7840855)
        I work at a Nuclear Power plant, and the process is very money-efficient.
        For starters, the energy release by a fission event, per atom involved, is at least 2 million times greater than a chemical reaction- ie, burning.

        Now, in the core at my plant, we have 193 fuel assemblies, each of which contains a little more than half a ton of uranium. Skipping over some details, we can basically use this hundred tons of fuel to generate 1.2 GW for 4.5 years.

        The coal powerplant down the road 10 miles burns something on the order of 500 tons of coal a day to make half the electricity we do.

        Each of our fuel assemblies costs us $750,000. For coal to be as cheap as nuclear, coal would have to go for $0.46 per ton. It actually costs more in the neighborhood of $28.00 per ton.

        So even with the added burdens of security and (ridiculous) regulation, nuclear power is still cheaper. My plant is actually a base load plant- we run at 100% capacity 24/7, and other plants (coal, oil, gas, etc) vary their load with demand- because we underbid all of them in the local deregulated market.

        If it wasn't for the ornerous regulation, idiot groups like greenpeace, and widespread misunderstanding about nuclear power, you'd see Nuke plants being built on quite a regular basis.
        THey'd never be the entire source of electricity for the country, because nuclear plants don't change load gracefully over the course of the day. You start them, fully load them, and run them till they need to be refueled, or shit needs service sooner than you expect, because it's not in it's design parameters.
        • That's very interesting. The wind farm doesn't need any fuel.
    • Re:Solution ? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by fastidious edward ( 728351 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @05:41PM (#7839250)
      But maybe 22000 birds over 20 years (that's a little more than 3 birds a day) are not worth the expense...

      Exactly, and there are 7000 turbines, so that makes little over 3 birds killed per turbine in 20 years, or 0.157... birds/year/turbine! Compare this to other mechanical devices killing animals, like cars running over hedgehogs, boats knocking fish on the head, animals killed after Chernobyl, or insects on your wind-shield and I'm impressed, 22000 is pretty low.
      • Re:Solution ? (Score:5, Informative)

        by Carnildo ( 712617 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @06:07PM (#7839647) Homepage Journal
        Exactly, and there are 7000 turbines, so that makes little over 3 birds killed per turbine in 20 years, or 0.157... birds/year/turbine! Compare this to other mechanical devices killing animals, like cars running over hedgehogs, boats knocking fish on the head, animals killed after Chernobyl, or insects on your wind-shield and I'm impressed, 22000 is pretty low.

        As a quick comparison, in the past year, three birds have died after running into the living-room window in my house. Those turbines are downright safe!
        • by Dirtside ( 91468 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @07:04PM (#7840233) Journal
          As a quick comparison, in the past year, three birds have died after running into the living-room window in my house. Those turbines are downright safe!
          And your living room window has a bird death rate nineteen times higher than one of these turbines. Clearly your house must be demolished! :)
        • Re:Solution ? (Score:3, Interesting)

          there are 7000 turbines, so that makes little over 3 birds killed per turbine in 20 years, or 0.157... birds/year/turbine!...

          As a quick comparison, in the past year, three birds have died after running into the living-room window in my house. Those turbines are downright safe!

          Yes, but this is just running statistics and not thinking of the details. Probably, most of those birds are hitting the same exterior turbines -- they aren't hitting each turbine equally.

          If you put a large silhouette of a giant bi
      • Re:Solution ? (Score:3, Interesting)

        by jafiwam ( 310805 )
        Fuzzy, cute, and deadly. The domestic cat (species, some are feral) kill an estimated 300 million animals per year too.

        Here's a link: []

        The same treehuggers complaining about the turbines probably let little Mr. Fluffy go out side unsupervised. What do you think Fluffy DOES out there? (besides crap in the sandbox of the kid next door)

        Fluffy hunts!
        • Re:Solution ? (Score:3, Interesting)

          by M-G ( 44998 )
          While the domestic cat does indeed take out many birds, I've not seen too many that can take down an eagle or hawk, which are what the article mentions. I suspect that the cat would more likely be the dinner for them.
          • ...that is, for threatening a /.ing of the ISP which I occasionally use.

            But cats do indeed occasionally go after the bigger birds - see below link.


            This is an honest-to-god picture of a cat attacking an eagle at some eagle preserve in Japan - can't give more detail than that off the top of my head, sorry.
    • by kfg ( 145172 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @05:43PM (#7839306)
      Any solution with magnetic fields?

      Oh sure, condemn them to a slow and painful death by cancer instead of quickly and cleanly in the aero-electric abattoir.

    • Re:Solution ? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by nehril ( 115874 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @05:55PM (#7839494)
      "...choosing to ignore the true impacts of these turbines, which are the equivalent of a terrestrial Exxon Valdez every year." - insane environmentalist in story.

      Lets see: exxon valdez killed 250,000 birds, whole wind farm kills 20,000 *over twenty years*. It's these kinds of crazy enviro-whacko statements that actually do a disservice to ALL pro-environment activists. These statements just make folks want to ignore them all. Some folks won't rest until we are all subsistence-farming vegetarians.
      • Re:Solution ? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by dasmegabyte ( 267018 ) <> on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @06:46PM (#7840077) Homepage Journal
        Some folks won't rest until we are all subsistence-farming vegetarians

        Who, ironically, are against intolerance and fascism in all its forms.

        I have many, many vegetarian and pro-subsistance friends. Hell, I myself have been known to dabble in these causes, because it's true -- the American lifestyle is FAR too damaging to the environment. But some of these cats need to lighten the fuck up. Organizations like PETA and some of the more extreme eco-nazis do a ton of damage to the perception of environmentalism in the public's eye.

        I am an environmentalist who does not believe in recycling (it is a complex, time consuming, inefficient and expensive process generally ignored by those in waste management. It will only become viable when we run so low on resources that it is cheaper to recycle old material than to use new material. In the short term, a much more efficient plan to make resources last as long as possible is to reduce overall waste through reuse, composting, and burning whatever can be burnt for fuel).

        I am an environmentalist who believes in allowing the lumber and oil industries into public lands (while maintaining government management of resources and routing the resulting money from the sale of rights into other conservation programs. See what Canada has done with the Algonquin park, one of the most heavily travelled but CLEANEST parks I've ever been to, whose forestry is far better managed than the privatized areas of the Adirondack park).

        I am an environmentalist who believes in hunting (as legalized, managed hunting makes for strong tourism and gives impetus for the conservation of wild private lands. Push hunters off your land and in come the developers, who strip hillsides, put up strip malls and sprawls to soak up tax breaks for a fewer years, and leave behind blight. In fact, a friend of mine was telling me last week that her park's best friend in the state legislature is the Turkey Hunter's Association).

        I am an environmentalist who isn't sold on organic farming (which results in a slightly more unreliable food source. It also imposes a number of severe restrictions on farmers which, while well meaning, can cause costs to rise as profits rise -- for example, you can't sow an organic field with manure from cows which aren't fed organic feed. Furthermore, organic practices necesitate stricter controls to prevent spoilage, resulting in more plastics, styrofoams and more rotten fruit thrown into dumpsters).

        I am an environmentalist who isn't dead set against nuclear energy (because the potential for widespread damage to the population of the earth is still less than that caused by burning coal and oil).

        I am an environmentalist because I look at the environment and say "Here is something I like. Here is something that is dirty. Here is something that is disappearing, and these are problems we need to solve." I don't pretend they aren't there and don't manipulate data to make others feel better about purchasing an inefficient vehicle. But I know that hyperventilating over every detail isn't going to get the crud out of the Hudson, or slow the exponential growth of the trash mound just west of town. Like these people, I see dead birds and think "we have to stop this." Yeah, we do. Eventually. Right now, we're far better off with a slight birdkill than the massive dangers imposed by our reliance on fossil fuels. And maybe if these cats would pump their resources into getting some good government subsidies for solar shingles and so forth, we wouldn't have to worry so much about either.
  • by bloggins02 ( 468782 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @05:32PM (#7839121)
    Ya know, at one point I might have cared, but we need to end our reliance on petroleum Real Soon Now(TM), mostly for environmental consequences far greater than 22,000 birds over 20 years, not to mention the socio-political impact of foreign oil dependance.

    Anything we can do to remove ourselves from our current situation is beneficial, so with that I say... ...fuck the birds.

  • by HerringFlavoredFowl ( 170182 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @05:33PM (#7839123)
    I remember seeing something about it's location being in a migratory flight path and other wind projects did not have the same problem.
  • by iiioxx ( 610652 ) <> on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @05:33PM (#7839124)
    Evolution in action. Obviously it only kills the dumb birds, the *smart* birds fly *around* the propellors...

    I wish we could take this tact with the human population. I say, take the warning labels off of everything and let the chips fall where they may.

    • I wish we could take this tact with the human population. I say, take the warning labels off of everything and let the chips fall where they may.

      I'll second that. In fact if someone pulls a pop machine over on themselves because they were tryng to climb up on it or rip it off, they should not only not get any money but if they're still alive the first person to find them should be required to jump up and down on the pop machine until they stop moving. Then pay the person who finished them off for doing

  • by TerryAtWork ( 598364 ) <> on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @05:34PM (#7839143)
    or putting sparklies on them so they can be seen even though they're whirling at high speed.

    On the other hand, that might ATTRACT the birds....

  • by FFFish ( 7567 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @05:34PM (#7839147) Homepage
    If the turbines killed three people a day... ...well, we'd probably accept that, too, just as we do for cars.
    • by gregt ( 103090 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @05:49PM (#7839396)
      The World Health Organization reports that 1 million people a year die in automotive accidents and another 3 million die from pollution. Assuming that 1/6th of the pollution deaths come from automobile pollution (I suspect it's actually quite a bit higher) and ignoring other negative indirect effects of automobiles (noise, aggravation, etc.) gives us a net worldwide death burden of 1,500,000 per year from the automobile.

      That's over 4,000 people dead from automobiles, daily. Or, another way, a 9/11 every day of the year.
    • by chunkwhite86 ( 593696 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @05:49PM (#7839397)
      If the turbines killed three people a day... ...well, we'd probably accept that, too, just as we do for cars.

      Cars kill people because of human error. Very very very rarely does a vehicle malfunction causing the death of the occupants.

      This includes SUV roll overs. It's your own damn stupidity using an off-road vehicle with high ground clearance for a commuting car / grocery-getter.

      Exploding Ford pintos and faulty Firestone tires - those are due to equipment malfunction (or more precisely, failed engineering). But neither of those events had anyone "probably accept that too". Massive lawsuits and large-scale negative press were the result of those.

      On the kill three people a day note, the pollution from burning coal has probably killed three people a day (certainly if you include the coal mining fatalities).
  • by Tim2 ( 151713 ) * <twegner@swb e l l . net> on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @05:34PM (#7839153)
    The Altamont story about wind farms killing birds is old news. While true, the story is misleading because the vast majority of wind farms are in very different settings with a much lower thread toi birds. A much more reasoned analysis can be found here: 2/msg00468.html
    • damn! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by exhilaration ( 587191 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @05:52PM (#7839451)
      And a study at a single Florida coal-fired power plant with four smokestacks recorded an estimated 3,000 deaths in a single evening during a fall migration - "Bird Casualties at a Central Florida Power Plant," Maehr, D. S., et al., Florida Field Naturalist, 11:45-49, 1983. Florida Ornithological Society.

      From the link above... []

    • by shut_up_man ( 450725 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @06:05PM (#7839624) Homepage
      That's a really solid, informative article. Nice one. I particularly like the bit:

      Q: How many birds die in collisions with other human structures?
      A: It is estimated that each year, 57 million birds die in collisions with vehicles; 1.25 million in collisions with tall structures (towers, stacks, buildings); and more than 97.5 million in collisions with plate glass [5].

      Adds a little bit of perspective to the whole mess.
    • by adamfranco ( 600246 ) <adam.adamfranco@com> on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @06:17PM (#7839772) Homepage
      Another bit from that article []:

      In the Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area (which has some 7,000 wind
      turbines), a two-year study found 182 dead birds, of which 119 were
      raptors. The study attributed 55 percent of raptor deaths to collisions
      with turbines, eight percent to electrocutions from power lines, 11
      percent to collisions with wires, and 26 percent to unknown causes [4].

      The inital posted article says:

      an estimated 22,000 birds have died... ...after flying into the spinning blades of the wind turbines.

      Where was the posted article getting its data? 52 deaths per year by collision is A LOT less than the 1100 per year mentioned in the article. Kinda shifts things a bit...

    • by fermion ( 181285 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @06:55PM (#7840157) Homepage Journal
      In case anyone might take the newspaper seriously, here are a few facts. The Chronicle is a barely literate newspaper most suitable for use as a method to teach elementary school students about correcting errors in english usage. The papers main purpose is to deliver coupons and support local and state governments. The chron did little to expose the lies of the local education administrators, even though such lies were obvious to anyone with the ability of logical thought.

      The newspaper is beholden to the local oil interests. Weeks into the Enron collapsed, they still had not carried a major story exlaining issue. Again all out news came from the NYT. To this day they still believe Ken Lay is just the most honest wonderful stand up guy. He had no responsibility for the actions of his company.

      The funniest thing about the Chronicle, at least locally, is their distribution method. In order to keep the numbers up, they give the newspapers to homeless people. These people are then free to trade the newspaper for money. I think they promise to sell all the papers, and the Chronicle checks up on them. I have had such people throw a paper into my car just so they could get out of the sun. Of course all these papers are reported as circulated.

  • Kill 22,000 birds (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Freston Youseff ( 628628 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @05:35PM (#7839166) Homepage Journal
    with 7,000 stones. In all seriousness, this number is probably tiny compared to the amount of birds that get shredded in personal, commercial and miliatary aircraft over the last 20 years. It's sort reporting the fact that blueberries are blue.
  • Sonics (Score:3, Insightful)

    by geekoid ( 135745 ) <<moc.oohay> <ta> <dnaltropnidad>> on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @05:37PM (#7839199) Homepage Journal
    can the use sonics to make the birds go around?

  • by Rinikusu ( 28164 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @05:38PM (#7839218)
    Hunters. Get hunters to stand below the turbines and SHOOT the birds before they can be chopped to pieces.

    Oh wait, we're saving the BIRDS not the TURBINES.. damn damn damn!

  • by CrazyJim0 ( 324487 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @05:39PM (#7839234)
    Do insects matter compared to birds?

    If so, are we supposed to stop walking in fear of killing insects and bacteria?

    If man was making rotors for the express purpose of shredding birds, that would probably be evil.

    Whats the count of deer killed by cars accidentally? How about deer killed by hunters intentionally?

    I'm all for eco-conservation, and teraforming the earth so we have no deserts, but some wackos take things too far. Ask some crazed Peta member, you may find one who values animals more than a human life.
  • Nice quote (Score:5, Informative)

    by geekoid ( 135745 ) <<moc.oohay> <ta> <dnaltropnidad>> on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @05:40PM (#7839245) Homepage Journal
    "Researched by Wyoming-based Western EcoSystems Technology, the report contends that many more birds are killed annually in collisions with vehicles (60 million), window panes (98 million) and communication towers (4 million) than die nationwide in wind turbines (10,000 to 40,000).

    Even the common household cat, wind power industry advocates argue, is responsible for more bird deaths than turbines"

    heh, a little persective, there.

    • How many housecats does it take to kill a golden eagle?

      Answer: One if it goes down the wrong way.

    • Good point. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Camel Pilot ( 78781 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @05:54PM (#7839477) Homepage Journal
      My office has a mirrored window and has provided me with a great opportunity to view and examine a variety of birds (both rare and common) up real close (both dead and stunned). The ground below my window is littered with bird remains. The local feral cat has caught on though.

      I say outlaw mirrored window before outlawing wind turbines.

  • Is this a joke? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by macemoneta ( 154740 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @05:42PM (#7839274) Homepage
    7000 wind turbines kill 22,000 birds in 20 years? That means that a wind turbine will kill a bird (that's "1") every 7 years or so.

    To put that in perspective... I have a greenhouse (glass enclosed room) on my home. On average, one or two birds fly into it and kill themselves each year. So my greenhouse is 7-14 times as deadly to birds as a wind turbine.

    This is just Darwinian selection at work. By the way, the dead birds get eaten by other birds and animals, so some number of them survive from the free meal. I think they forgot to count those.

    Worthless article.
  • Some Perspective (Score:5, Insightful)

    by worst_name_ever ( 633374 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @05:42PM (#7839275)
    Keep in mind that the wind turbines at the Altamont Pass site are 20 years old and smaller than the current generation of large wind turbines; that means they spin a lot faster, and thus give the birds less time to get out of the way. Modern turbines spin a lot slower and are situated higher off the ground, giving them much less of an impact on the local wildlife population.

    Not to mention the fact that hundreds of millions of birds are killed each year through collisions with glass windows, vehicles, guy wires, and so forth.

    But don't take my word for it, check out this article [] which goes over the statistics, with references. Or, Google for yourself [].

  • by GoneGaryT ( 637267 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @05:42PM (#7839290) Journal
    ...from a kite [] (no, not a bird).

    It's a bit Pythonesque, really. "The residents pass along here, through the rotating knives..."

  • by Have Blue ( 616 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @05:44PM (#7839328) Homepage
    Every time you consume energy, you convert it from a useful form to a useless (heat) form which cannot be recovered, and you prevent its consumption by something else. Considering that aside from sunlight (which humans cannot use in its raw form) this planet is a closed system, any activity including "natural" subsistence farming or hunting/gathering will indirectly cause something to die. This is how life on Earth works, and it will never change (barring massive technological change or new sources of previously untapped energy).
  • by DeepDarkSky ( 111382 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @05:45PM (#7839330)
    Of course, if it was chickens, we wouldn't care so much, would we? After all, we kill over 2 billion chickens yearly for food, and somehow that doesn't seem to concern too many people. Or maybe it's whether the birds being killed are edible or not? Or is it whether or not the species is endangered? Or maybe it's our perception of the birds? Golden eagles are "noble" where as chickens are just dumb birds that are suited only for eating and mistreating - cramming chickens into tiny little cages so that they trample each other to death, cutting off their beaks so they don't peck each other to death because of the crowded, conditions, etc.

    No, it's not just any bird, but it's birds that we like that we are concerned about, isn't it? Doesn't it also apply to people too? We have the same biases and valuations of people depending on who they are, where they're from, etc.
  • by phiala ( 680649 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @05:46PM (#7839351)
    Out of curiousity, I checked the literature on the subject (by which I mean actual peer-reviewed biological journals), since most of the web sites a cursory search turned up appeared to be propaganda, either pro or con.

    There isn't a whole lot, but here's some extra information (refs available on request):

    Osborn et al. 2000
    Minnesota, estimate 36 +/- 12 birds per year, less than one per turbine

    Osborn et al. 1998 (same site):
    Observed flight patterns, found that most bird flew above or below the turbine level

    Johnson et al. 2002 (same site):
    "We assessed effects of the wind farm on birds from 1996 to 1999, with 55 documented collision fatalities. Recovered carcasses included 42 passerines, 5 waterbirds, 3 ducks, 3 upland game birds, 1 raptor, and 1 shorebird."

    De Lucas et al. 2004:
    Straits of Gibralter, most birds altered flight path to avoid turbines

    Several of these researchers seem to think that turbines do kill birds, but in very small numbers compared to other structural sources of mortality. (birds hit stuff, especially plate glass windows)

    The problem is that it's easy to count dead birds at the base of turbines, but hard to count birds that died from most other sources of power...

  • Darwinism anyone? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by t0qer ( 230538 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @05:48PM (#7839380) Homepage Journal
    I live in San Jose, very close to altimont pass. I don't watch birds as a hobby, but when I do watch them it's because of my facination with flight.

    As sorry as it sounds (22k birds dead) it's plain old Darwinism. Adapt or die basically.

    Next time you're near an overpass populated with pigeons, take the time to watch them, and I mean REALLY watch them. I've noticed a behavior these birds have on freeway's I call "Car Surfing"

    Lately i've noticed that the pigeons on the highway 17 camden av overpass won't leave thier roost until there are cars passing underneath. I'm guessing the cars going 60mph below them must produce some sort of small air wave, because the birds never seem to smash into them. They swoop down, grab that little updraft of wind from the car below, and get launched another 30-40 feet into the air.

    These birds have adapated to having 1ton+ metal boxes moving around their flight path. Not only have they adapted, but they've learned to use it to their advantage.

    As far as altimont pass is concerned, i'm sure the ratio of Kestral/Eagles to common birds is pretty low. I would bet the majority of the birds dying are blackbirds or doves. Carnivoires are oppertunistic, living or dead if it's meat they're going to go for it. So i'm sure most of these accidents with the exotic preditors have nothing to do with the windmills, and much to do with the altimont pass groundskeepers not cleaning up the dead carrion. Perhaps if they made it a part of their daily job to toss all the dead birds in the back of their pickup and move them to a safer place for the preditorial birds to eat, we would see less deaths.

    Until that happens though, what we will see is a fine example of these birds adapting to their enviroment. The stupid ones will be weeded out of the genepool.
  • by lelitsch ( 31136 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @05:49PM (#7839400)
    Most of the nubmers they quote seem to come from this page []. The site has also some data on newer sites.
  • by N8F8 ( 4562 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @05:51PM (#7839436)
    Get treehuggers to stand in front of the turbines and catch the birds before they hit the blades.
  • options (Score:3, Funny)

    by potpie ( 706881 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @05:52PM (#7839457) Journal
    as i see it, they have several options: 1) relabel the dead birds as a product and sell the meat 2) claim they are trying to advance the evolution of the bird population by eliminating the ones stupid enough to run into big spinning blades 3) shoot the birds before they hit the blades so that it's not recorded as a casualty of wind power 4) get everyone to decide that birds are bad and they deserve to be killed 5) put all birds through a 4 hour wind power safety training course 6) find out how many birds are killed each day by running into glass windows and begin an anti-window campaign to draw attention away from themselves
  • Solution (Score:5, Funny)

    by Stonent1 ( 594886 ) <stonent@stonent ... t c l a r> on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @05:55PM (#7839492) Journal
    Put the bird carcasses and a big furnace that boils water that spins more turbines! Think OUTSIDE the box people! We just got yet another energy source!
  • Legend (Score:5, Informative)

    by Elektroschock ( 659467 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @05:58PM (#7839527)
    I think this may be a legend. I Germany there was research about bird populations and wind farms. In the 80th it was suspected that it had effects on bird death, that rotors may kill birds. However this assumption was falsified by empirical evidence.
  • by n1ywb ( 555767 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @05:58PM (#7839540) Homepage Journal
    How many birds have been killed by cars in the last 20 years? Or airplanes? Or pollution? Or hunting? This really doesn't seem like a big problem to me. Humans must kill to survive, whether it's plants or animals or whatever. Sure it would be nice to minimize the number of bird deaths, but the bottom line is that the natural law is survival of the fittest, and if it comes down to us or them, I'll side with us.
  • Auditory warning? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Progman3K ( 515744 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @06:02PM (#7839586)
    Can't we put some kind of emitter on these things that broadcasts "STAY AWAY" to the birds?

    I seem to remember farmers using explosions to scare birds away from their crops, can't we do something similar here?
  • HOUSTON speaks? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by MrChuck ( 14227 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @06:25PM (#7839854)
    Houston, the center of oil and oil energy, has a paper decrying the dangers of WIND enery? To the environment?

    I laugh.

    But first, more useful stats are gleaned not from "in 20 years of operations" but in "birds per year." Is it static or have lots of work in the last few years to reduce bird death paid off? Using a broad statistic like that reeks of lazy journalism or trying to push aside that bird deaths/year have plunged since Altamont first opened.

    I'm not far from the wind farm right now (just over a rise I can see), and I know that lots of birds got whacked with the original windmills.

    I also know that new windmills were put in, along with other measures, to DEAL with this problem.

    I've heard (on radio, in paper) that the number of birds/year killed is down VASTLY.

    Ok, that out of the way: Damage to wild life isincluding hundreds of golden eagles, red-tailed hawks, kestrels and other raptors - but I imagine that the VAST MAJORITY of bird deaths are to sparrows and other common birds. How much damage is done compared to if they were pumping oil from those fields? Or if it has a coal power plant there?

    I find it a little disigenuous that it comes from Houston; from the home of the Resident of the US; on the same day the radio covers stories of Wyoming's [home of Big Dick Cheney] massive budget SURPLUS.

    Did you know that a fair amount of energy is required to MAKE solar panels? Ban them!

    The best way to save animals and such is to:
    Reduce energy use (do you NEED an electric razor when a manual one works fine? Toothbrush? Does that tivo REALLY need to be on 24/7 with disks spinning?
    Have you noticed that plasma screens just SUCK power?

    It's not like the environmentalists don't have other things they could do. Every MW not needed is a win for the environment.

    Generate power locally. And make is EASY for Joe Sixpack to join in.

    If every new electrical meter put it were REQUIRED to run both directions, then it would be a simple matter to run 2, 4 solar panels and just push it back on the grid.
    If every new house was REQUIRED to have at least the infrastructure for roof panels - a PVC from roof to power area to run cables, perhaps footings for mounting panels - cost < $100 when putting up a roof and hundreds or thousands when putting onto an existing roof.

    If they ALSO measured accoring to TIME of use (peak/non-peak), we might have a slight cash motivation to do power consumptive things during the off peak. Right now the only motivation is the somewhat lame: "because it's good". Most people will respond better, I'm sorry to say, to "because it's good and you'll save 20%/month"

    If every new WATER meter in Calif were required to measure usage based on TIME, then people might be a bit motivated to run dishs and laundry at night.

    So, now that computers are about as fast as they need for the software we're currently running, where are the "new P4/1.2GHz that uses 50% the power of the same machine using der biggen chip?"

    I know my LCD's suck a lot less power than CRTs, that my ARM computer uses a gazillionth the power of the dual 1GHz 1U. AT this point, with intel pushing 4GHz, I'd be more attracted to a machine advertised as saving me 20%/month on my power bills. (and yes, I mostly use a 266MHz laptop or a 400MHz apple laptop).

    Encourage less power use and you support the country and reduce our need to support nations breeding terrorists.

  • The Birds Learn (Score:5, Interesting)

    by HardCase ( 14757 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @06:26PM (#7839860)
    When I moved into my new house about six years ago, we suffered from fairly frequent blackouts, something like one a week, which seemed pretty excessive to me. So I called the power company to find out what was going on. The engineer I talked to said that the problem was that flocks of birds were running into the new power lines in the area and arcing across the terminals of the transformers. He said that this happened all the time when new above ground structures like this were constructed, but within a year, the birds would have adjusted to the structures and the problem would go away. He also said that the problems would probably shift further south of where I lived, where more housing development was going on.

    Sure enough, the next summer, no bird-caused blackouts, but my friend who bought a new house about ten miles south of me was having the very same problems that I'd had!

    Anyway, I think that it would be interesting to observe the trend, over time, of the rate of bird deaths. It wouldn't surprise me to see that they fall off rapidly after the first year as the birds become accustomed to the presence of the wind turbines. And, as many have pointed out, 22,000 bird deaths by 7,000 turbines over 20 years is quite a low rate. Everything comes with a cost.


  • by jridley ( 9305 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @06:27PM (#7839877)
    Lights left on at night in high rise buildings. Kills birds in the hundreds of thousands every year.

    In addition, light pollution from coastal cities screws up nesting and migration patterns for all manner of birds and sea life.

    And, has anyone done a study how many birds are killed by pollution from coal plants? It's not so easy, since they don't fall in a nice pile next to the plant.
    • by Cyno ( 85911 )
      How about automobiles?

      When we talk about environmental issues I always like to put things into perspective by comparing them to at how automobiles impact our environment.

      I bet more birds are killed every year by vehicles than by windmills. In fact I bet the environmental impact of millions of automobiles around the world is far worse than ANYTHING else. So until we want to do something about these very real environmental problems I see no reason to even speculate about the possibility of even remotely b
  • by mfarver ( 43681 ) * on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @07:42PM (#7840599) Journal
    The bird kill in California is often used as a anti-wind argument. (Texans still think of themselves as an oil producing state, despite having a net import of oil for about 10 years now)

    In this case it is a flaw in the design of the farm... in Alton pass the turbines sit on gridded towers (like high tension lines). These towers make excellent perches, and a lot of birds hang out in them. Hawks especially have a tendency to dive at prey, and run smack into a turbine blade.(They don't get chopped up, just collide like your living room window.)

    Most newer wind farms have far less turbines (its cheaper days to install a single 1MW turbine, than 10 100KW turbines. Also the industry has learned that monopole tower (a single smooth shaft, rather than a lattice) keeps the birds away. (Its cheaper to install too..)

    This comment created using 100% renewable electrons via AustinEnergy GreenChoice (mostly wind)
  • 100W = 1bird:y (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Doc Ruby ( 173196 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @09:27PM (#7841433) Homepage Journal
    At 7000 turbines producing about 700MW, and 22,000 dead birds over 20 years, that's about 100W = 1bird:y. If every time you changed a lightbulb you had to bite the head off a live bird, you'd never do it. Then again, if you had to gouge a kilo of whaleblubber out of a right whale, you'd never use a 19th century lamp. Or if you had to smack a plutonium nucleus with a neutron, that might also turn you off. How many caribou are killed in Alaska each year by oil exploration, drilling and pipeline? How many are threatened in the ANWR? While we're at it, what's the cost in human life per joule of industrial energy?
  • Easy Solution... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Thornkin ( 93548 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @10:07PM (#7841753) Homepage
    Nuclear power. France and Japan get 70% of their power from nuclear. It's clean and we know how to do it right. Too bad we made it so hard to build a new plant.
  • by ducomputergeek ( 595742 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @10:16PM (#7841821)
    This is old news, but proves what one of my philosphy professors once said, "Don't listen to Enviromentalist, most don't know what they hell they are saying". And he was a pretty liberal professor at that.

    I mean its been pointed out that 22k dead in 20 years is pretty low compared to how many die a day of other causes. Wind represents one of the cleaner forms of enegery we have. These people are saying this wind farm should be torn down. What, my question, should we replace it with? I always hear bitching from these groups, yet very few solutions. Personally I think they should shut it down and build a nuclear reactor next to it just to spite the idiots that propagated this report.

    The whole NIMBY additude is stupid. We need to do something about adding more power to our grids. Suggest a nuclear plant, there could be a melt down, coal or gas, oh that causes too much acid rain, Wind, those windmills are large, noisy, and are unsightly to look at, solar, it would cost too much, etc. etc.

    personally I would like to see the tree-huggers in a giant hampster cage with a wheel they could run on to generate power...

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