By Roy L Hales
Jim Pelley sent in some photos of a red-tailed hawk at the Ocotillo Wind farm in California. This is not the first raptor sighted in the wind farm, which straddles a migration flyway used by golden eagles.
Though close to half a million birds and bats are supposedly killed by turbines every year, I believe Jim Wiegand has conclusively proven the count is much higher. Aside from the fact the search area has not expanded since turbines were 100 feet tall, the information is supplied voluntarily. We don’t know how many birds are killed every year.
Industry apologists like to point out that a far greater number of birds crash into windows, but that isn’t the issue.
Some fear that the golden eagle population is being eradicated. The data from San Diego county would appear to support this idea. Only a quarter of the golden eagle territories near the proposed Tule Wind Farm are still occupied and the number of breeding pairs is rapidly declining.
There are other causes for the golden eagle decline, in addition to the whirling blades of wind turbines. Some birds are electrocuted; others eat rodents who were poisoned (& thus poison the eagles); eagles are being disturbed by humans.
Wiegand believes the primary cause is wind turbines and they are responsible for the eradication of 80-90% of Southern California’s golden eagle population.
Ben Thibault, from the Pembina Institute in Canada, believes the number of bird casualties can be reduced by ensuring wind farms are sited properly.
What we really need in this debate, is a reliable official count. Without it, we are gambling with the survival of more than one bird species.
Meanwhile, there is a red-tailed hawk at Ocotillo. Jim Pelley wrote they used to see them all the time but not anymore. The active Borrowing Owl holes are also gone.
“We see Ravens out near the project and Doves in town but that’s about it,” he said.
Similar reports of the large scale disappearance of birds have come from other wind sites, such as San Gorgonio Pass.
Hopefully, the red-tailed hawk will fly away.