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Birds and wind turbines

BY CAROLINE EGGERS - ceggers@perutribune.com

Wind turbines can be spinning death traps for birds, but how many birds do they really kill?

In 2016, the annual estimates ranged from 20,000 to 573,000 bird deaths per year, according to FactCheck.org.

The higher estimate could even be low, as the total U.S. installed wind capacity has continued to grow.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) estimates half a million, and says that win energy developments can harm wildlife and their habitat due to collisions with wind turbines and loss of habitat from turbines and infrastructure at the project site.

USFWS also says that there are greater threats, and there is a need for renewable energy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“We believe that it is not necessary to choose between conserving vulnerable wildlife and developing wind energy,” their website says.

A 2013 study published in Nature Communications titled, “The impact of free-ranging domestic cats on wildlife of the United States,” concluded that free-ranging domestic cats kill 1.3 to 4.0 billion birds each year in the U.S.

And as any Miami County resident is probably aware, we have a lot of roaming cats.

Scratching Post Cat Rescue in Peru posted on Facebook on Thursday they could not take any more cats in their 4,500 ft. facility.

There are other significant threats to bird life.

USFWS provided via email a list of the top common human-caused threats to birds in the U.S., ordered by mean estimates:

n domestic cats, 1.8 billion

n collision with buildings or glass, 675 million

n collision with vehicles, 214 million

n poison, 72 million

n collision with electrical lines, 32 million

There are also avian threats from other energy sources. Oil fields are said to kill between 500,000 and 1 million birds each year, according to the Bureau of Land Management.

Wind turbines certainly have a significant impact on bird life, but many scientific experts say that the reduction in carbon emissions from wind power is more beneficial to birds than it is harmful.

The issue was addressed by researcher Benjamin K. Sovacool in his 2012 study, “The Avian and Wildlife Costs of Fossil Fuels and Nuclear Power.”

“As a low-emission, low-pollution energy source, the wider use of wind energy can save wildlife and birds as it displaces these more harmful sources of electricity,” Sovacool wrote.