Wind energy is on the rise: The U.S. Department of Energy has called for an increase in wind power – with a goal of generating one fifth of our electricity in just fourteen years. But with an increase in the number of wind turbines comes a threat to birds and bats.

Wind turbine and birds flying nearby

At more than 100 feet long, turbine blades present a possibly fatal danger to these animals, while the construction of large wind farms could potentially destroy habitats.

This is of particular concern in the Great Lakes, since the region is so important to migrating species. So biologists like Nathan Rathbun of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are using radar, acoustic monitoring and visual surveys to better understand the migration patterns of birds and bats along the coasts of the Great Lakes.

Rathbun: “They send out a radar beam that tracks birds and bats basically like you would track an airplane or a boat. So it sends out a beam, gets some energy back from that, records that energy signature, and can track that target as it flies through the air space, whether it’s a bird or a bat. No banding – the birds and bats have no idea that we’re even there, which is great for them.”

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Learning which areas are most heavily used will allow biologists to advise wind power developers which areas to avoid, so that wind farms pose less of a threat to wildlife.

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media/Peter Bresnan.
Photo: Copyright protected.

More Resources
Monitoring Migration Along the Great Lakes
Impacts of Wind on Wildlife
U.S. Great Lakes System
Wind Turbine Interactions with Birds, Bats, and their Habitats: A Summary of Research Results and Priority Questions


Erika Street Hopman

Erika Street Hopman is co-founder of ChavoBart Digital Media, an audio and video production firm with a focus on scientific and environmental media. ChavoBart Digital Media contributes original reporting,...