Cats Kill 3 Billion Birds Annually, Wind Turbines Kill 300,000

Cats and buildings are dramatically more deadly for birds than wind turbines.

Wind Farm
Yuhan Liao / Getty Images

We love birds! We really do! That's why we think it's important to keep things in perspective and do the things that will really help them and make a difference. Many people have this obsession with wind turbines killing birds, probably because it's a really great story. As a meme, it strikes the imagination because wind turbines are this green thing, right, so killing birds is antithetical to what they're supposed to be doing...

But if the goal is to save birds, we have to look at the actual facts on the ground and not just at whatever story makes for the catchiest headline.

Wind Turbines by Comparison

One peer-reviewed study, which itself looked at 116 other studies from the U.S. and Canada, confirms that wind turbines are way down the list of problems for birds; in fact, by displacing fossil fuels they are helping birds, as well as everything else that is alive on the planet. Another report confirmed that "hundreds of bird species in the U.S. — including the bald eagle and eight state birds, from Idaho to Maryland — are at 'serious risk' due to climate change. It said some species are forecast to lose more than 95% of their current ranges."

USA Today reports:

"Wind turbines kill between 214,000 and 368,000 birds annually — a small fraction compared with the estimated 6.8 million fatalities from collisions with cell and radio towers and the 1.4 billion to 3.7 billion deaths from cats, according to the peer-reviewed study by two federal scientists and the environmental consulting firm West Inc.'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,' says lead author Wallace Erickson of Wyoming-based West."

And that's not even looking at some of the other biggest bird killers out there: building and vehicles. In New York City alone, an estimated 230,000 birds die a year from colliding with buildings, according to Audubon.

With all the building collisions and vehicle stikes, there are hundreds of millions of bird deaths right there. In the grand scheme of things, wind turbines are probably lost in the margin of error.

Numbers Behind Bird Deaths in The U.S.

Here are the numbers from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, as charted by Statistica:

Bird deaths chart
 Statistica

This doesn't mean that wind power operators should stop doing what they can to protect birds. Wind farms should be properly sited and everything should be done to mitigate any risks.

But we need to be fighting against the real enemies rather than spending precious energy fighting one of the main tools that we have to clean up our power grid and have a greener world.