Mass Audubon Opinion: Birds And People Could Reap Benefits Of Offshore Wind

Last winter, Trump’s Interior Department secretary, Ryan Zinke, told an oil and gas industry audience that wind farms kill 750,000 birds a year. Yet his own Fish and Wildlife Service put the estimate at fewer than half that number. Meanwhile, Zinke is doing away with century-old protections under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

Estimated bird deaths from wind turbines are small when compared to other human-caused sources of avian mortality. In contrast to the 5 billion birds killed annually as a result of encounters with a variety of hazards, ranging from domestic cats to building glass, turbines are a much smaller risk.

The greatest threat to birds today is climate change. Of Massachusetts’ 143 breeding bird species evaluated by Mass Audubon, 43% are “highly vulnerable” to its effects. Climate change produces warmer temperatures that alter the length of seasons, interrupting traditional migration patterns. It also causes accelerated sea level rise and stronger ocean storms, which wreak havoc on coastal bird habitats, drowning out the nesting and foraging areas for species such as the federally protected roseate tern and piping plover.