Ducks, Other Birds to Benefit from Informed Siting of Wind Power Development

Florida "hotspots" for migratory birds, as rendered in the American Bird Conservancy's Google Earth-based map. Orange signifies areas of high importance; red, critical importance.

From Press Release

A new, interactive web-based map, created by American Bird Conservancy (ABC)—the nation’s leading bird conservation organization, is now available, and has the potential to dramatically reduce bird impacts from wind turbines. Open the map.

Using Google Earth as a platform, the map highlights more than 2,000 locations in the United States where birds are likely to be particularly vulnerable to impacts from wind energy development. Key sites are colored either orange or red to indicate their relative importance to birds.

Birds can be impacted by wind power both through direct collisions and by displacement from nesting, foraging, or transit areas. The map addresses both of these issues by identifying both concentrated migratory flight paths and key habitat locations.

The map also provides extensive background data for each location, including details of ownership, habitats, land use, bird species, and conservation issues

“This map offers a way to prevent millions of bird deaths from wind power, while at the same time providing ample opportunity for the prudent development of this potentially bird-smart energy source. Careful siting of wind energy remains the single most important factor in reducing bird deaths from wind power, and this map provides a means to do just that,” said Mike Parr, Vice President of ABC. “ABC strongly supports bird-smart wind energy development” he added.

A recent study published in 2011 in the online, peer-reviewed journal of the Public Library of Science indicates that there is approximately 3,500 GW of wind potential on already disturbed lands in the United States, more than ten times the Department of Energy’s national goal for wind power generation by 2030. By focusing on these disturbed lands and avoiding the high-priority bird sites depicted on the map, the wind industry can help to minimize its impact on birds.

The sites depicted on the map as polygons include:

  • ABC-designated Globally Important Bird Areas (IBAs) – more than 500 sites.
  • High-use Key Migration Corridors– 21 corridors depicted.
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designated Critical Habitat locations for 18 endangered bird species – more than 1,000 individual locations depicted.
  • Broader Key Habitat Areas that indicate range strongholds and provide data on 50+ Red WatchList birds of high conservation concern.
  • Priority Marine Important Bird Areas where seabirds and waterfowl congregate to forage, primarily outside the nesting season – 10 areas depicted.
  • Concentration areas for Bald and Golden Eagles – 25 stronghold areas depicted.

The map also provides the option to download points showing the locations of more than 2,000 additional IBAs identified by the National Audubon Society and its chapters down to a state level.

“This bird risk assessment map is a goldmine of information and a “must have” tool for wind developers, regulators, local officials, and conservationists to avoid development in high-impact, high-priority bird areas. It should serve as the starting point to begin any consideration of a wind development project and be the precursor to site-specific studies,” said Parr.

The map also enables the user to view the locations of nearly 80,000 proposed wind turbines and meteorological towers (wind testing devices), and links to an average wind speed map showing the relative potential for wind energy development across different regions of the United States.

“Regardless of the level of importance indicated on the map, all potential wind development sites should be subject to careful, independent, pre-construction studies to ensure that there is not an unanticipated or newly developing bird issue,” Parr said.

Additional or updated data will be added to the map as they become available. In 2009, prior to the recent and ongoing major expansion of the wind industry in the United States, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimated that 440,000 birds were already being killed each year by collisions with wind turbines. This number is expected to grow significantly as wind development is built out across the nation.

American Bird Conservancy (ABC) is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit membership organization whose mission is to conserve native birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. ABC acts by safeguarding the rarest species, conserving and restoring habitats, and reducing threats, while building capacity in the bird conservation movement.