Although wind turbines are responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of songbirds in North America annually, the combination of cats and cell phone and radio towers do much greater damage, according to a new report.
An article in USA Today said turbines are responsible for between 214,000 and 368,000 bird fatalities per year, while collisions with cell phone and radio towers account for 6.8 million deaths. Cats account for between 1.4 billion and 3.7 billion deaths, although about two thirds of the cats were barn and feral cats, not house pets.
The newspaper said the peer-reviewed study was written by two federal scientists and an environmental consulting from called West Inc. The study was published at Plos One.
“We estimate that on an annual basis, less than 0.1% … of songbird and other small passerine species populations in North America perish from collisions with turbines,” the paper quoted lead author Wallace Erickson of Wyoming-based West as saying.
The estimates were based on 116 previous studies in the U.S.and Canada.
Reaction to turbine bird deaths has been mixed
The effect of wind farms on bird populations has long been a point of contention between environmental groups and the wind industry. Last year, wind turbines in 10 states were blamed for scores of eagle deaths.
Last November, Duke Energy Renewables agreed to pay a $1 million fine in connection with bird deaths at two Wyoming wind farms, the first time the federal government had used the Migratory Bird Treaty Act to prosecute bird fatalities.
Yet the National Audubon Society says it supports “properly sited wind power” because renewable energy ultimately reduces environmental threats to birds by lessening the impact of climate change. The Audubon society reported earlier in the month that hundreds of bird species were at “serious risk” from loss of habitat due to climate change.
Some bird species will lose nearly all of their current ranges, that report said, and more than 300 species are either endangered or threatened.
Terry Root of the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, told USA Today that wind energy is a “growing solution to some of the more serious threats that birds face, since wind energy emits no greenhouse gases that accelerate climate change.”