During Thursday’s final 2020 presidential debate, President Donald Trump repeated a claim he’s made throughout his presidency: that wind turbines are extremely deadly to birds.
“I know more about wind than you do,” Trump told former Vice President Joe Biden. “It’s extremely expensive, kills all the birds, it’s very intermittent, it’s got a lot of problems.”
Trump is wrong. Although wind turbines do kill some birds every year, they’re not responsible for many avian deaths relative to other causes, and they certainly do not kill “all the birds.”
If the President truly wanted to stand up for birds, he’d have targeted cats on the debate stage.
When it comes to bird deaths, cats are unrivaled as the leading cause. Whereas wind turbines only kill about 234,000 birds every year in the United States, felines kill 2.4 billion, according to the US Fish and Wildlife Service. As of 2017, cats killed more birds than all other human-related causes combined.
Feral, or “un-owned,” cats are largely responsible for this high number, because they spend much of their time outside and hunting for food, according to a 2013 Nature study. Pet cats with access to the outdoors, the research found, killed nearly 684 million birds annually as of the study’s publication, a substantial percentage of the total.
That means that if separated, feral and owned cats would be the number-one and number-two causes of bird death in the US.
“Simple solutions to reduce mortality caused by pets, such as limiting or preventing outdoor access, should be pursued,” the study authors wrote.
Wind turbines aren’t among the top 7 causes of bird death
Feral cats, domestic cats, oil pits, poison, vehicles, electrical lines, and cell-phone towers all kill more birds than wind turbines.
After cats, buildings with glass windows are the deadliest human-related cause of bird death. Nearly 600 million US birds die colliding into them each year.
Wind turbines aren’t even the top cause of bird deaths in the energy-production sector. Oil pits kill 500,000 to 1 million birds each year, according to a Fish and Wildlife Service estimate. That’s at least twice as many birds as wind turbines.
Birds are lured to oil pits thinking they’re ponds, then get stuck in them. Under President Barack Obama’s administration, companies that left oil pits open for birds to get stuck in could face fines and criminal charges under the 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
But in 2017, the Trump Administration declared that the law only applied to people “intentionally” killing birds, not oil companies engaging in “lawful commercial activity.”
The plight of birds in the US is very real: A 2019 study found that North America may have lost nearly 3 billion birds, or a quarter of its total bird population, since 1970.
So if you’re truly worried about birds, the most effective first step is to mitigate their two biggest threats: Paint decals on your windows so they don’t look transparent, and keep your cat inside.
Read the original article on Business Insider