So, somebody wants to put a wind farm in your backyard. Maybe you want it, maybe you don't. Then somebody comes along and says that it might kill lots of birds. So, what do you do? How many birds get killed by windmills, anyway?
Here's what we know: researchers have found that on most modern wind farms, each turbine kills an average of 2.3 birds each year (read the latest NWCC report here).
So if they want to put a monster 500 turbine wind farm in your county, that might kill an estimated (reaching for the calculator...) 1150 birds a year. Still sounds like a lot?
It is estimated that the average house kills around 10 birds a year that smack into its nice picture windows. The average outdoor cat may kill 10 birds each year as well. There are about 100 million homes in the U.S. and maybe that many cats as well. Are you doing the math? We're looking at something like a billion birds killed by windows, and another billion killed by cats, each and every year. With an estimated 20 billion birds in the U.S. each fall, windows and cats may be killing about 10% of all birds every year.
How does that stack up against birds killed by windows. If you crunch the numbers found here, you'll find that there are currently something like 17,800 wind turbines in the U.S. At 2.3 birds per turbine, that's 40,940 birds killed by windmills each year.
Of course, these are estimates. There are some windfarms that kill more birds. Others kill fewer birds. If someone is proposing a windfarm in your area, make sure that they do their environmental studies to show that they're not going to build it in a major migratory pathway, or near too many nesting hawks or eagles. See if you can get them to do ongoing monitoring of the windfarm to make sure that they aren't killing inordinate numbers of birds.
All in all, the habitat destruction that takes place putting in the service roads for the windmills will probably be more damaging than the windmills themselves. Again, if you have a chance, make sure that those impacts are addressed. Maybe there should be some mitigation for habitat destroyed. Its probably going to come down to what you and your county are able to negotiate.
If wind developers do their homework, and do a good job choosing a site, then there shouldn't be too big a problem with a windfarm killing birds. If you want to oppose a windfarm on aesthetic grounds, that's another thing. Just remember that the window you have to look through to see the local windfarm is actually killing at least as many birds as the windmills themselves.
Now, that said, wind power's ability to reduce our need for fossil fuel burning needs for electricity generation is another question entirely...