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California Condors vs. Industrial Wind (a biodiversity warning that Big Environmentalism does not want to hear)

By Sherri Lange -- February 7, 2012

Save the Eagles International (STEI); North-American Platform against Windpower (NA-PAW); and the World Council for Nature (WCFN) just issued a biodiversity warning concerning the California Condor. The press release, slightly edited, follows.


Having spent tens of millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money to recuperate the species, politicians are now allowing its habitat to be invaded by hundreds of wind turbines, of the kind that are killing an estimated 2,000 vultures a year in Spain.

Compared to Spain’s population of 40,000 vultures, there are only 400 California condors, most of them likely to have close encounters with Kern County’s projected wind turbines at some point in their long lives–unless the birds are kept captive, as many presently are.

Kern County Problem

As reported by Forbes Magazine in the January 16, 2012, piece, Wind vs. Bird, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service biologists have alerted Kern County officials to the fact that most of the wind projects on their drawing board, as well as at least one existing wind farm, are a threat to the condor. (1)

“The service requests that the county of Kern exercise extreme caution in developing wind energy within the Tehachapi area because it falls within the range of the California condor,” warned senior biologist Raymond Bransfield. But county officials are now poised to approve lethal wind turbines where condors fly. Humans are not treated differently: health and other adverse effects on local residents are also being overridden to meet Sacramento’s green energy targets.

“Condors can travel 200 miles in a day”, said Jesse Grantham, the California condor coordinator for the Fish & Wildlife Service, “as the bird forages for food or takes a road trip on a whim to satisfy its curiosity. The condor has evolved to be attracted to novel objects and activity as it must constantly scour vast landscapes for its dinner.”

Adds Mark Duchamp, president of STEI: “In view of this, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to predict they will be attracted to wind turbines, and die in their arms as do golden eagles. Dead birds under the turbines will be another fatal attraction.”

Vultures and other raptors do perch on wind turbines, even when the blades are moving, claims Duchamp:

We have pictures and a video (see here and here) documenting the fact. Condors will be likely to perch as well, and accidents will inevitably happen. Even if they did not attempt to perch, they are likely to get struck while looking down for food: a world-famous video shows a griffon vulture being hit by a blade while circling above a wind farm in Greece.

The Fish & Wildlife Service has opposed many projects in Kern County, but county officials deny that condors fly where FWS biologists say they do. Through denial of expert advice, they have given the green light to dangerous projects.

Forbes Documents Controversy

Forbes gives the Catalina wind farm as an example: “We do not agree with your conclusion that California condors are ‘absent’ from the project area,” wrote Diane K. Noda, a field supervisor, in a letter to the county.”

Yet the project was approved, and others just as nefarious, not to speak of a mega power line across condor habitat, laments Save the Eagles International. Last October the Sierra Club and two other environmental groups sued Kern County over its approval of a 300-megawatt NextEra Energy Resources wind farm that state and federal officials warn poses a high risk to condors. (2)

Duchamp warns that golden eagles too are at risk in Kern County, as many wind turbines will be placed in their breeding ranges and dispersion areas, the latter being hunting grounds shared by young eagles, like Altamont Pass in Northern California. “The cumulative effect on California’s golden eagle population will be disastrous,” he says.

When asked how come no condor deaths have ever been reported at the existing Tehachapi wind farm, Mark is quick to reply: “The fact that none were reported does not mean that none have been killed. It is no secret that, in the wind business, some employees are making embarrassing evidence disappear. Even the renowned Spanish Ornithological Society recognized the fact.” (3)

– Mark Duchamp, President, Save the Eagles International; Chairman, World Council for Nature; Sherri Lange, CEO, Platform against Windpower; Jim Wiegand, Vice President Save the Eagles International.


(1) Biologists, meanwhile, have told county officials and developers that most of the multibillion-dollar projects on the drawing board, as well as at least one existing wind farm, threaten the condor, according to agency records FORBES obtained under a Freedom of Information Act request.”

(2) Video of a turkey vulture perched on a moving turbine; Videoof a griffon vulture struck as it circles. (Pictures of birds of prey perched on wind turbines available on request.)

(3)The Spanish Ornithological Society (SEO/Birdlife) wrote (translation): we were able to verify the occulting of bird carcasses by wind farm employees, who perhaps thought that their jobs depended upon the number of birds being killed in their wind farms, and that behavior reduces the mortality rate shown in monitoring studies.

Original in Spanish (pp. 11–12): “Se ha podido comprobar la ocultación de cadáveres por parte de trabajadores de los parques eólicos, tal vez pensando que su puesto de trabajo dependa de las aves que mueren en el parque, disminuyendo la tasa de mortalidad obtenida en los planes de vigilancia.”


Appendix: Media Attention to the California Condor Problem




  1. Ruben Palacio  

    Wind turbines have been very controversial, they have been proven to kill birds. It would be really sad if the same fate happens to the fantastic california condor. People must be aware of the danger here!


  2. Mike  

    I think that it’s important to consider this further from an economic perspective. One important element of evaluating this situation is considering the projected value of continuing to preserve the California condor in comparison to the value of the energy that is prodcued by the NWR wind project. The money spent on preserving the condor in the past is already spent: we have to look to the potential values in the future when considering the economic side of this argument.

    Furthermore, there is an argument to be made from the biodiversity perspective about the value of continuing to enjoy the presence of the California condor. This is an additional element that deserves consideration.


  3. mark duchamp  

    The value of an unspoilt nature is immense, biologically, climatically, and economically. If we consider only the last point of view, which is that of Mike (above), a wind farm spoiling a heretofore beautiful landscape causes millions of dollars in damages as the value of the land in the whole area takes an immediate plunge. It is an instantaneous destruction of capital, i.e. of resources.

    Another destruction of capital lies in the subsidies that will be dished out during the lifetime of the wind turbines. Then there is the loss of jobs to consider, those linked to the budget deficit of the nation and its sovereign debt level, which are made worse by the subsidies wasted away on an ineffective and forever uncompetitive industry. There is the loss of jobs in the local tourism industry, and there is also the loss of potential jobs that future developments in the tourism, recreational, and second home building activities.

    On the positive side, there is no benefit whatsoever, because it is a redundant energy: it doesn’t work without backup, and the backup causes more fuel to be burnt, as much as that which is being saved.

    It is a lose-lose situation. See the book by Dr Etherington: The Wind Farm Scam


  4. margaret biehl  

    The biggest problem we have is the huge amount of electricity that is being wasted because of all the electronic equipment that continues to use electricity even when they are turned off, the phantom power. electronic companies have got to stop making all these charging devices that waste electricity. Same thing with computers that are left plugged in all night. How many millions and millions of computers and charging devices are there in this country that are wasting electricity? If we are ever going to wean this country off of fossil fuel, we have to stop the waste.


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