How are bats affected by wind turbines?

Dead bats are found beneath wind turbines all over the world. It’s estimated that tens to hundreds of thousands die at wind turbines each year in North America alone.

Unfortunately, it’s not yet clear why this is happening. It’s possible that wind turbines interfere with seasonal migration and mating patterns in some species of bats. More than three quarters of the bat fatalities at wind turbines are from species known as “tree bats,” which tend to migrate long distances and roost in trees. These bats migrate and mate primarily during late summer and early autumn, which is also when the vast majority of bat fatalities at wind turbines occur. It’s also possible that bats mistake slow or stopped turbine blades for trees.

Learn more at the USGS Bats website.

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Where do bats live?

Bats can be found in almost all parts of the world and in most regions of the United States. In general, bats seek out a variety of daytime retreats such as caves, rock crevices, old buildings, bridges, mines, and trees. Different species require different roost sites. Some species, such as the Mexican free-tailed and gray bats live in large...

Why is it important to know the locations of wind turbines?

No publicly-available, national database of wind turbines existed prior to the creation of the USGS Windfarm mapper, which was replaced with the U.S. Wind Turbine Database (USWTDB) in 2018. Knowing the location of individual turbines and their technical specifications creates new opportunities for research and improved siting and is important...

Why are bats important?

By eating insects, bats save U.S. agriculture billions of dollars per year in pest control. Some studies have estimated that service to be worth over $3.7 billion per year, and possibly as much as $53 billion. This value does not, however, take into account the volume of insects eaten by bats in forest ecosystems and the degree to which that...

Are bats dangerous? 

All healthy bats try to avoid humans by taking flight and are not purposely aggressive. Most bats are about the size of a mouse and use their small teeth and weak jaws to grind up insects. You should avoid handling bats because several species, such as the hoary and big brown bats, have large teeth that can puncture skin if they are handled...

What do bats eat?

Bats are the most significant predators of night-flying insects. There are at least 40 different kinds of bats in the U.S. that eat nothing but insects. A single little brown bat, which has a body no bigger than an adult human’s thumb, can eat 4 to 8 grams (the weight of about a grape or two) of insects each night. Although this may not sound like...

Are bats blind? 

No, bats are not blind. Bats have small eyes with very sensitive vision, which helps them see in conditions we might consider pitch black. They don’t have the sharp and colorful vision humans have, but they don’t need that. Think of bat vision as similar to a dark-adapted Mr. Magoo (a cartoon character with very poor vision). Learn more at the...

What should I do if I find dead or dying bats, or if I observe bats with signs of White-nose Syndrome?

If you find a dead or dying bat: Contact your state wildlife agency, file an electronic report in those states that offer this service, e-mail U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists in your area, or contact your nearest Fish and Wildlife Service field office to report your potential White-nose Syndrome (WNS) observations. It is important to...
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Date published: May 16, 2018

Mapping the Nation's Wind Turbines

There are more than 57,000 wind turbines across the United States, and a new tool allows you to get up close and personal with each one!

Date published: April 19, 2018

U.S. Geological Survey and U.S. Department of Energy Release Online Public Dataset and Viewer of U.S. Wind Turbine Locations and Characteristics

Today, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), in partnership with DOE’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the American Wind Energy Association, released the United States Wind Turbine Database (USWTDB) and the USWTDB Viewer to access this new public dataset.

Date published: October 23, 2017

Trick or Treat? The Frightening Threats to Bats

Written by Marisa Lubeck and Ethan Alpern

Date published: January 10, 2017

Advancing Wind Energy and Avoiding Wildlife Conflicts

Our Nation works to advance renewable energy and to avoid conflicts with and conserve wildlife.

Date published: September 29, 2014

Wind Turbine or Tree? Certain Bats Might Not Know

Certain bats may be approaching wind turbines after mistaking them for trees, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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Wind Turbines
January 26, 2017

Wind Turbines

Wind turbines

A Bat Interacting with a Wind Turbine
January 26, 2017

A Bat Interacting with a Wind Turbine

Surveillance video from a temperature-imaging camera shows a bat interacting with a wind turbine. Video credit: Paul Cryan, USGS

Advancing Wind Energy and Avoiding Wildlife Conflicts
January 26, 2017

Advancing Wind Energy and Avoiding Wildlife Conflicts

Advancing Wind Energy and Avoiding Wildlife Conflicts

Spectrograph of an acoustic recording from the western small-footed myotis (Myotis ciliolabrum) noting shape and frequency of ca
December 15, 2016

Spectrograph of an acoustic bat recording

Spectrograph of an acoustic recording from the western small-footed myotis (Myotis ciliolabrum) noting shape and frequency of call with photo of the western small-footed myotis and cartoon representation of this bat echolocating below.

Bat Colony
October 26, 2016

Bat Colony

While mother bats are out foraging, the young bats huddle together in groups that biologists call a cuddle.

Tall wind turbines in a semi-arid shrubland with a bright rainbow
August 19, 2016

Wind Turbines and Rainbow

Tall wind turbines in a semi-arid shrubland with a bright rainbow

Scanning Electron Microscopy of Pallas’ Mastiff Bat, Molossus molossus
August 19, 2016

Scanning Electron Microscopy of Pallas’ Mastiff Bat

Scanning Electron Microscopy of Pallas’ Mastiff Bat, Molossus molossus

Bats emerging from the trees in the early evening sky.
December 31, 2014

Bat emergence, Paul Cryan, USGS photo.

Bats emerging from the trees in the early evening sky.

A bat that was killed by a wind turbine laying in the grass.
December 31, 2013

A bat that was killed by a wind turbine laying in the grass.

A bat that was killed by a wind turbine laying in the grass. 

July 26, 2012

PubTalk 7/2012 — Wind Energy and Wildlife

-- the challenges of wind-energy development and wildlife conservation

by Manuela Huso, Research Statistician

 

  • Wind-power development in the United States is increasing exponentially, with proposals to provide 20% of the country's total power by 2030.
  • High numbers of bird and bat carcasses at some wind farms
...