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A comprehensive analysis of small-passerine fatalities from collisions with turbines at wind energy facilities

September 17, 2014

Small passerines, sometimes referred to as perching birds or songbirds, are the most abundant bird group in the United States (US) and Canada, and the most common among bird fatalities caused by collision with turbines at wind energy facilities. We used data compiled from 39 studies conducted in the US and Canada to estimate the annual rate of small-bird fatalities. It was necessary for us to calculate estimates of small-bird fatality rates from reported all-bird rates for 30% of studies. The remaining 70% of studies provided data on small-bird fatalities. We then adjusted estimates to account for detection bias and loss of carcasses from scavenging. These studies represented about 15% of current operating capacity (megawatts [MW]) for all wind energy facilities in the US and Canada and provided information on 4,975 bird fatalities, of which we estimated 62.5% were small passerines comprising 156 species. For all wind energy facilities currently in operation, we estimated that about 134,000 to 230,000 small-passerine fatalities from collision with wind turbines occur annually, or 2.10 to 3.35 small birds/MW of installed capacity. When adjusted for species composition, this indicates that about 368,000 fatalities for all bird species are caused annually by collisions with wind turbines. Other human-related sources of bird deaths, (e.g., communication towers, buildings [including windows]), and domestic cats) have been estimated to kill millions to billions of birds each year. Compared to continent-wide population estimates, the cumulative mortality rate per year by species was highest for black-throated blue warbler and tree swallow; 0.043% of the entire population of each species was estimated to annually suffer mortality from collisions with turbines. For the eighteen species with the next highest values, this estimate ranged from 0.008% to 0.038%, much lower than rates attributed to collisions with communication towers (1.2% to 9.0% for top twenty species).

Citation Information

Publication Year 2014
Title A comprehensive analysis of small-passerine fatalities from collisions with turbines at wind energy facilities
DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0107491
Authors Wallace P. Erickson, Melissa M. Wolfe, Kimberly J. Bay, Douglas H. Johnson, Joelle L. Gehring
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title PLoS ONE
Index ID 70125465
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center