If you attend talks about alternative forms of energy, you can often find people in the audience challenging the use of wind power by saying that windmill blades kill a lot of birds. This gives many people pause because those who support alternative energy sources also tend to be those who support humane treatment of animals and the idea of birds being sliced by the blades is worrisome.
Recently Donald Trump at a rally in Pennsylvania’s coal country raised that same argument against windmills and other forms of alternative energy, in his typical exaggerated style of talking in superlatives.
“And honestly, it’s not working so good. I know a lot about solar. I love solar. But the payback is what, 18 years? Oh great, let me do it. Eighteen years,” he said, turning to wind power. “The wind kills all your birds. All your birds, killed. You know, the environmentalists never talk about that.”
All our birds killed? That sounds pretty alarming, no?
I was at one such meeting where this same point was made by an audience member. Another audience member whom I knew who is as much an animal lover as anyone immediately got up and said that this bird argument was phony and that the fossil fuel industry deliberately propagates it and actually plants people at such talks to spread this idea. In fact, she said, the number of birds killed by windmills is tiny compared to how they die in other ways.
It is true that windmills kill hundreds of thousands of birds per year. But the number of birds that are killed by flying into glass windows runs into the hundreds of millions. But by far the largest number is killed by cats and that number runs into the billions.
I had not appreciated how nimble cats must be to be so successful at killing birds. Baxter the Wonder Dog barks and chases after birds who happen to drop by our yard but he has never come anywhere close to catching one. I don’t know if he actually wants to catch one or simply play with a bird since he has never exhibited any predatory instincts. But cats seem to be incredibly good bird predators. I can’t imagine how they do it since you would think that having the ability to fly would enable birds to elude them quite easily.