Your recent story about the wind project proposed for Thurston and Lewis counties noted that all 15 of the comments received expressed concerns about the turbines killing birds and bats, and quoted one estimate that wind turbines kill 140,000 to 328,000 birds a year in North America, “making it the most threatening form of green energy.” That’s true, though adjusting the placement of turbines and various safety features are steadily reducing that risk.
However, Audubon’s State of the Birds Report for 2014 estimated outdoor cats kill 2.6 billion birds a year in North America, about 10,000 times the losses from turbines. Collisions with windows kill about 624 million birds a year, about 2,500 times as many as wind projects. Collisions with cars, power lines, cell phone towers, and agricultural chemicals also kill dramatically more birds.
The overriding threat to bird populations is habitat loss, though. In particular, Audubon’s recent Birds and Climate Change Report estimates that half of the bird species in North America will lose more than 50 percent of their range by 2080 if global warming continues at its current pace.
We should try to reduce bird and bat losses from wind turbines, but there are other far more important things for people who care about birds to work on. In particular, shifting PSE’s energy sources from coal to renewable energy like wind that doesn’t contribute to climate change will do much more to help preserve birds’ habitat and their longterm survival than opposing wind projects.