protected birds


Scores of golden eagles have been killed after striking the thousands of wind turbines in the Bay Area, raising questions about California’s move toward alternative power.

June 06, 2011 | By Louis Sahagun, Los Angeles Times

The death count, averaging 67 a year for three decades, worries field biologists because the turbines, which have been providing thousands of homes with emissions-free electricity since the 1980s, lie within a region of rolling grasslands and riparian canyons containing one of the highest densities of nesting golden eagles in the United States.

“It would take 167 pairs of local nesting golden eagles to produce enough young to compensate for their mortality rate related to wind energy production,” said field biologist Doug Bell, manager of East Bay Regional Park District’s wildlife program. “We only have 60 pairs.”

The fate of the Bay Area’s golden eagles highlights the complex issues facing wildlife authorities, wind turbine companies and regulatory agencies as they promote renewable energy development in the Altamont Pass and across the nation and adds urgency to efforts to make the technology safer for wildlife, including bats, thousands of which are killed each year by wind turbines.

baby eagle

Biologist Joseph DiDonato cradles a golden eagle chick for a Bay Area study. On average, 67 golden eagles are killed each year by wind turbines. (Don Kelsen, Los Angeles Times)

Gov. Jerry Brown in April signed into law a mandate that a third of the electricity used in California come from renewable sources, including wind and solar, by 2020. The new law is the most aggressive of any state.

The development and delivery of renewable energy is also one of the highest priorities of the Interior Department, which recently proposed voluntary guidelines for the sighting and operation of wind farms. Environmental organizations led by the American Bird Conservancy had called for mandatory standards.

Video: Golden eagles at Altamont Pass

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