A Free-Market Energy Blog

Bird Kills: The Evidence and Publicity Mounts (Sierra Club, Audubon must stop deceiving memberships)

By Jim Wiegand -- November 21, 2013

“Combined together, these clever [evasive] techniques mean that most carcasses are ‘missed.’ In fact, 90% or more of the slaughter can easily be hidden. This … is certainly not ‘scientific or ‘green.’ But it is certainly effective.”

The Wall Street Journal recently published several letters and articles on the environmental impacts of wind energy, adding to a growing body of reportage of wind power’s cruel, ironic byproduct.

Making the public aware of this extremely important issue is essential, because the wind industry has been using bogus research and other methods to hide its slaughter of millions of birds and bats that are supposedly protected by law, putting some species on a path to extinction.

Falsified Science

1. Delayed Search: At Altamont Pass in California, mortality studies have employed 30-90 day search intervals since 1998. These excessively long search intervals ensure that most carcasses disappear before the next search is conducted. In addition, even as wind turbines have grown larger and larger over the years, search areas for carcasses have deliberately been left unchanged.

Today’s turbines are 23-45 times larger in megawatts generated and several times larger in terms of propeller length. Many flying victims are catapulted hundreds of feet by propeller tips that move at up to 200 mph. And yet, search area sizes have remained roughly the same.

2. Percentage Searched: The deception does not stop there. The industry uses another effective trick: “percentage searched.” It does not even search for carcasses in entire grossly undersized search areas; instead, its teams search only small portions of their areas 45-60 meters from towers.

Some studies factor this in, using contrived numbers to “account for” all the missing portions; but some do not. Either way, search areas should be 200 meters from towers in all directions and they are still missing at least 90% of the carcasses that fall beyond the 50 meter length of the turbine blades.

The trick enables teams to “miss” even more carcasses, by avoiding segments of circular areas that are most likely to be landing zones for dead and maimed birds that are thrown in particular directions by the turbine blades.

The wind industry only uses carcasses found in “designated” search areas to estimate mortality. Carcasses found outside these areas do not “count,” and the industry pretends they do not even exist. A related trick involves having search personnel kick or toss bodies a few feet, so that they are outside designated search areas and do not have to be counted.

3. Detection Rates. Yet another is to increase proclaimed searcher detection rates, by conducting test studies on bare soil or gravel left over from the turbine construction, where it is far easier to spot fresh carcasses than it is in areas that have become overgrown with grasses, weeds and brush.

Even when personnel have observed birds being killed by turbine blades as designated plots were being searched, in the eyes of the wind industry the dead birds (and bats) do not count if they land outside the tiny search areas.

Combined together, these clever techniques mean that most carcasses are “missed.” In fact, 90% or more of the slaughter can easily be hidden.

This is all by design. It is certainly not “scientific” or “green.” But it is certainly effective.

Few or no carcasses mean the data are completely unreliable, making the studies highly misleading or even fraudulent. On the other hand, they are extremely useful for convincing an unsuspecting public that wind turbines are safe for birds and bats, environmentally friendly, and “better” for our planet than “dirty” fossil fuel power systems.

(In 1997, the wind industry told Congress that the primary reason for bird mortality was the turbines’ lattice towers, and replacing the lattice systems with cylindrical towers would end the killing. All along, the industry has known that the primary reason so many species are being killed is the industry’s 200-mph turbine blade tips smashing victims out of the sky.) This is the original link but it was taken down from the internet

Captured Conservation Groups Dupe Public

As this wind turbine slaughter marches across the world, the news media are telling us that most forms of energy production kill far more birds. But how many carcasses have actually been found near power plants, mines or oil rigs? Maybe 100,000 thousand all together in a really bad year, such as when the Exxon Valdez ran aground in Alaska or the Deepwater Horizon blew up in the Gulf of Mexico.

But the wind industry is killing millions of birds and bats every year, year after year, just in America – and this number climbs higher with every newly installed wind turbine (despite promises of new technology).

If one of these other industries were killing even a few dozen eagles a year, there would be nonstop front page news. But the wind industry has been killing hundreds of eagles annually, and there have been is no outcry – by environmentalists, government wildlife agencies or the media. Even “mainstream” conservation groups like the Sierra Club and Audubon Society have been silent, because they oppose fossil fuels and endorse wind turbine madness.

Indeed, it goes beyond mere support. Groups like Audubon are actually receiving funding from the wind industry and from individual approved projects, even though these project approvals are based on bogus research used to hide impacts.

These groups should be put under intense scrutiny, because they should endorse projects only if they understand the research methodologies – which does not seem to be the case – and because their endorsements are resulting in large-scale bird and bat slaughter. Their actions, in essence, are also telling their members, local communities and world at large that it is fine to move forward with wind turbine projects. These conservation groups should be held accountable

At best, their actions are akin to non-lawyers giving legal advice or corporate mergers or trusts and estates – or lay persons giving medical advice, on which someone is basing life-or-death decisions on surgery or cancer treatment. Even worse, they are acting with full knowledge of the impacts their endorsements are having, because wind power is the primary alternative to hydrocarbon energy. Worst of all, they are representing a client (America’s precious wildlife), while secretly working for the other side (the companies that are killing that wildlife.

The Audubon Society, Sierra Club and similar organizations legally have no right to use their empty opinions to deceive their members about the impacts on wildlife and then receive “mitigation funds” for participating in approved projects. But this is exactly what they are doing.

A Peculiar Endorsement (Radar Ridge wind project)

The following letter is a perfect example of this conservation group/wind industry problem. It was written by a real estate agent who was also the chapter president and conservation chair of a Washington State Audubon Society chapter that I was unsuccessfully trying to educate in 2011 about hidden wind turbine mortality impacts and the wind industry’s deliberate use of bogus research.

The letter endorsed a large wind project proposed for the habitat of an endangered species, the marbled murrelet. It reads in part [all emphasis added by the author]:

October 21, 2011

To whom it may concern with interest in the Radar Ridge Wind Project:

As you may know, the Discovery Coast Audubon Society Chapter (Pacific County Washington) is the local Audubon Chapter with great interest regarding the Radar Ridge Wind Project.

We have been thoroughly briefed, have continued to follow this project and have scrutinized their development and habitat conservation plans over the past several years of activity. As a result, this chapter remains in support of this development from the perspective of environmental stewardship as well as from the local Pacific County resident’s perspective.

We believe the developer has balanced the overall potential wildlife impact; continually responded to enhancements suggested; and their results have been successfully peer reviewed. In our zeal to protect this planet’s wildlife, we must not lose sight of our primary mission to accommodate societal growth through wise and selective use of emissionless renewable energy resources. Namely “WIND.”

We are at a loss to understand how such a project, most likely providing a net-positive benefit to the species of concern could be so burdened with costly mitigation that it becomes no longer viable. To have this recalcitrance continue to happen, especially at this late stage, is appalling.

We have concluded that there is no credible scientific controversy and are quite shocked with the permitting delays and cost increases at our expense. This development is consumer owned and the development costs are being paid by the ratepayer’s in the local communities participating in the project.


We understand there is uncertainty, but we believe there is sound and successfully peer reviewed conservative analyses resulting in the potential species of concern take of “less than one bird per year.” These analyses were prepared by nationally recognized experts and meet or exceed all industry standards and guidelines, clearly the best available science. Their conclusions were validated by data collected at high species of concern use areas nearby.

The four page letter offered opinions on the local and regional economy, electric grid reliability, greenhouse gas reduction, and the ability to provide a locally-controlled competitive power supply. It concluded with this statement:

Without this project, the opportunity to contribute to the conservation and recovery of the species of concern will be lost. A missed opportunity indeed!

The obvious problem with this amazingly wrongheaded endorsement is that this person was not an expert on any of these subjects, especially the wildlife impacts caused by wind turbines. If this Audubon Chapter President were an expert, she would have been able to understand the scientific literature, ask appropriate questions, and appreciate what I was trying to communicate.

Even more incredible and outrageous, after having several email contacts with this Audubon chapter president and having carefully read her letter, I can only conclude that much of it was likely written for her by the wind industry.

Thankfully, the application to build the Radar Ridge wind project was withdrawn in December 2011. If it had been up to the Audubon society, it would have been built.

What I have just described here is taking place all over the country with conservation groups: non-experts giving technical advice, using their positions to influence communities, and not disclosing their financial connections to the wind industry. Despite wind industry denials and the silence from conservation groups here is the ugly, unvarnished truth.

Unaccountability and Underserved Tax Credits

No industry kills eagle species like the wind industry.                                                                                                                                                                                                 

No industry kills other threatened, endangered and protected species like the wind industry.

No industry rigs and manipulates its research like the wind industry.

No industry has voluntary regulations like the wind industry.

No industry gets a free pass from legislators, regulators, courts and the public like the wind industry.

Wildlife agencies and conservation groups like Audubon and the Sierra Club are aware of the wind industry’s deception and lack of accountability. All the information in this article (and much more) is out there. And yet they still endorse this industry and the bogus research it uses to hide its growing impacts on birds, bats and other wildlife, while the unsustainable slaughter continues.

These groups also receive wind industry money and mitigation funds (a commission, so to speak) from approved projects, while politicians receive campaign contributions in exchange for voting to continue subsidizing the industry and the bird and bat butchery.

Over the coming years, dozens of species are likely to be exterminated – driven to extinction – across entire regions or even totally, by propeller-style wind turbines. Our tax dollars are paying for this slaughter, through “production tax credits,” and for the rigged research used to support it.

Moreover, this is just the adverse impacts on wildlife. It does not address the extensive harm that is being increasingly documented to the physical and mental health of people living near wind turbine installations, due to constant subsonic turbine noise, the “flicker” effect of turbine blades repeatedly passing in front of the sun, severe impacts on property values, and other causes.

This year the wind industry is once again asking Congress for tax credits. Instead, America should demand that all the billions in tax credits already given to this industry since 1997 be returned to the Treasury, as a penalty for the industry’s lying to Congress and the American people, and slaughtering our wildlife heritage.


  1. Martin Green  

    Strange how people deny scientific evidence…. Delusional!


  2. Nadia Nichols  

    Excellent article, Jim Weigand, thank you! I use to belong to both Sierra Club and Maine Audubon and our business made big yearly contributions but we cannot in good conscience support either any more, given their sell out to the wind industry and their outright and immoral deception to their members. It’s all about money to them, not wildlife.


  3. Catherine Bayne  

    Thanks for this, it is painful to read but essential for understanding of the true costs of greed energy.

    The penetration of industrial wind turbines into virginal forests and wetlands of iconic areas such as the minimally impacted watershed of Lake Superior is an indication that nothing is sacred.

    People should stop mindlessly responding to prompts for guilt money from astroturf groups and devote more time to logical thinking. A good start would be to simply remember every good mother’s admonishment that “two wrongs don’t make a right”.

    If you hear the argument, cats and buildings kill more birds…you should doubt the motives or intelligence of the person making it.


  4. Rosemary Mesley  

    Excellent insight and points made. The wildlife cannot speak to us verbally so they give up their lives by being killed and still we don’t listen.
    I am truly at a loss for words, that they died and people remain silent or oblivious.

    We stopped our development just recently. It was 6 years but worth every minute of time spent to make it go away. There is still so much to do. Education and awareness is so crucial to uncovering the truth and explain the lack of transparency from wind companies. Well done.


  5. juandos  

    The idea that those clowns in the Sierra Club and other similar outfits actually give a damn about what they say they’re fighting for is at best ludicrous…

    Like progressive socialist everywhere its all about a revenue stream and societal control…

    We have an ongoing devolvement of that happening right now here in the good, ole US of A – its called ObamaCare…


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