Environmentalism

Who Is Might Be Killing the Whooping Cranes of North America?

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There are 266 wild whooping cranes in North America (up from just 16 in 1941). They are a protected species that migrates from Canada down Mexico way every year. The biggest threat to cranes these days comes not from trigger-happy hunters with troglodytic tendencies but from an element within the broadly defined environmentalist movement that helped save them in the first place: Wind farms.

Wind energy has gained such traction, whooping cranes could again be at risk—either from crashing into the towering wind turbines and transmission lines or because of habitat lost to the wind farms.

"Basically you can overlay the strongest, best areas for wind turbine development with the whooping crane migration corridor," said Tom Stehn, whooping crane coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The service estimates as many as 40,000 turbines will be erected in the U.S. section of the whooping cranes' 200-mile wide migration corridor.

"Even if they avoid killing the cranes, the wind farms would be taking hundreds of square miles of migration stopover habitat away from the cranes," Stehn said.

The birds stop every night during their migration and apparently that's when they get snagged in the towers and transmission lines.

An old Winston ad used to ask, What do you want, good grammar or good taste?, thus extending Manichean dualism to tobacco products. Whether such things are actually mutually exclusive, we might ask, what do you want, whooping cranes or renewable wind power? Tradeoffs. Everything is tradeoffs.

More here.

NEXT: Alan Bock on Buckley

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  1. Frome the article:
    “Stehn and others say no whooping cranes have been killed by a wind turbine, though they remain concerned.”
    and:
    “In the natural world, birds and bats have gotten used to flying around a lot of things,” Throckmorton said. “But nowhere in the natural world is there a big spinning rotor.”

    me- Isn’t that the kind of stuff you jump all over here? I mean, no documented killings and a silly statement to boot.

  2. Title changed to reflect actual facts in article!

  3. In the natural world, birds and bats have gotten used to flying around a lot of things

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but whooping cranes don’t have the cognitive ability to identify an object as either being derived from nature or otherwise.

  4. If worst comes to worst, whooping crane feathers do make a fine smoke. And not at all carcinogenic.

  5. Correct me if I’m wrong, but whooping cranes don’t have the cognitive ability to identify an object as either being derived from nature or otherwise.

    Which explain why they are constantly flying into trees.

  6. J-D

    I’m just rejecting the assumption by the speaker that whooping cranes won’t be able to adapt because the wind turbines aren’t natural

  7. 40000 turbines vs. 266 whooping cranes.

    Not exactly a fair fight, is it?

  8. The service estimates as many as 40,000 turbines will be erected in the U.S. section of the whooping cranes’ 200-mile wide migration corridor.

    By the time the wind farms become a problem, the whooping cranes will be able to use the NAFTA superhighway.

  9. “But nowhere in the natural world is there a big spinning rotor.”

    Sure there is! Just go up to a wind-farm, and you’ll see one. Birds don’t know better, and they don’t have our prejudice of ‘nature = world shaped and perverted by every living creature except for humans’. (If anything they should regard bird-nests with eco-loathing and salute our wind farms as we do beaver dams.)

    And — I fail at locating an article, but you can see a reference to it — birds didn’t restrain themselves from exploiting a milk-cap deficiency in the UK, after they discovered it. There aren’t any milk bottles in nature, but birds taught each other how to make the delicious froth spurt out.

  10. Which explain why they are constantly flying into trees.

    Oh, hilarious. Let me try:

    A: I claim without evidence that birds are flying into mailboxes, getting confused and trapped, and dying! My proof is that the mailboxes are unnatural!

    B: Say what? The birds don’t care if they’re ‘natural’ or not.

    A: Which explains why they are constantly getting trapped inside trees!

  11. Julian Fondren –
    Can we play good cop/bad cop? I’m obviously the good cop…

  12. There’s a technological solution to this potential problem. Use a drone to guide the cranes away from the turbines. Paint it to look like a whooping crane. Voil

  13. That doesn’t sound bad except that I don’t think that the cranes fly in flocks.

  14. They just need training, then.

  15. No good Pro Lib,
    They will recognize that the drone is not natural.
    Try again.

  16. This is not hard, people. Large spinning turbines operate differently than anything found in nature. The flying and object-recognition skills a lot of birds have evolved, combined with their tiny, little brains, don’t allow them to recognize that the turbine blade is spinning, so they don’t avoid it they way they would avoid a stationary tree.

    Is this some sort of elaborate joke? This is not a difficult concept.

  17. They just need training, then.

    I recommend frequent, savage beatings.

  18. 40000 turbines vs. 266 whooping cranes.

    Not exactly a fair fight, is it?

    Indeed… I say we shoot 166 of the cranes to even the odds…

  19. Look, fun as it is for Gillespie to snark at environmentalists, wind farms are by no means the biggest danger to cranes. Collisions with power lines cause more deaths. Unsurprisingly, the big issue is water ; cranes depend on the crabs in estuaries, but river water is diverted for dams and private use, reducing flows to crane habitat.

    Okay, got that off my chest; that said, one obvious solution is marking the power lines (and maybe turbines) so cranes can see them.

  20. We need conservation, not the building of new power sources. Do you really need that plasma TV?

  21. So, wind turbines have the whooping crane people fighting them on the West coast and the Kennedy clan fighting them on the East coast. Who will take up this noble cause in the Midwest?

  22. They just need training, then.

  23. I would think that with global warming running rampant, the cranes would love the cool breeze generated by all these big fans.

  24. Here in Kansas people just don’t want turbines in their “back yard”. We’ll worry about it once we get over that.

  25. Wind turbines are a blight upon the land. Theyv’e erected these beasts even on Maui, because the smog there is so intensely brutal. Why, you can’t even hoist a Pina Colada on the beach without a coughing fit brought on by the pollutants in the air from generating electricity using fossil fuels…..What? You mean that pall of smoke in the air is from burning the sugar cane fields?

  26. that said, one obvious solution is marking the power lines (and maybe turbines) so cranes can see them.”

    lol

  27. “Potential predators of the whooping crane include the black bear (Ursus americanus), wolverine (Gulo luscus), gray wolf (Canis lupus), red fox (Vulpes fulva), lynx (Lynx canadensis), and raven (Corvus corax).”

    We could always make the wind turbines look like giant black bears.

  28. so they don’t avoid it they way they would avoid a stationary tree

    If you think trees stand still you obviously haven’t been to the part of Texas where they build wind farms. Wooosh!

    We need conservation, not the building of new power sources. Do you really need that plasma TV?

    Greenpeace, weren’t you going to make us all buy electric cars?

  29. Larry A,

    The motion of a tree being blown in the wind – which has being happening throughout the millions of years of the cranes’ evolution – is quite different than that of a wind turbine. Tree branches in a nice gale don’t move 300 feet per second (which the tip of a 400-foot wind turbine at 16 rpm does), and they don’t move 300 feet, period.

  30. Alright, you got me, I admit it. I HATE those damn birds with their constant congestive sounding coughs!

    I’ll come along quietly…

  31. How about giant screens over the giant turbines? Then an entirely new industry will emerge – climbing windmills and peeling whooping cranes off the screen.

  32. Are cranes good to eat? I bet they taste like chicken

  33. Tree branches in a nice gale don’t move 300 feet per second (which the tip of a 400-foot wind turbine at 16 rpm does), and they don’t move 300 feet, period.

    I hate to be anal (actually, I sometimes enjoy it), but a 400-foot wind turbine at 16 rpm would have the tips of its blades move at 335 feet per second. That said, the world’s largest turbine has a diameter of 413 feet; most wind turbines have a diameter of 130 to 300 feet, thus generating a speed of 109 to 250 feet per second at the tip of their blades.

  34. cranes depend on the crabs in estuaries, but river water is diverted for dams and private use, reducing flows to crane habitat.

    I don’t know about the rest of their range Alisa, but just FYI damming and water use isn’t the crane’s problems on the Platte. The Platte is a wide and very shallow (inches to a few feet deep) river which is great for the cranes because they can see and approach it easily from the air and then browse the entire width of the river for food.

    The problem on the Platte is that farming and non-native trees have fixed the banks in place so in a lot of places the channel is narrowing and getting deeper and if that gets too widespread the cranes may lose their habitat. Even if it still remains shallow enough for feeding, the trees are encroaching on the river as it narrows and there’s a worry trees could block their view of the river from the air if it goes too far.

  35. They’ll evolve… or they’ll die. Like humans.. and other species.

    Have a nice day.

    CB

  36. Apparently no one read the first comment in this thread.

    No deaths by wind turbine.

    As for whether or not the idea that wind farms are dangerous for birds is the result of environmentalists or not…well, there are gullible environmentalists, but I bet the meme got started at Exxon.

    As for “trees move too” but they don’t rotate…pish & piffle.

  37. My solution is just to put the turbines underground.

    Oh, wait, then they’ll kill moles.

  38. My solution is a massive human die-off.

  39. I think more than a few people looked at what happened to the salmon runs once we dammed up the rivers and figured something like this would happen when wind farms started popping up. But that’s like comparing birds…to fish.

  40. Warty,

    That’s your solution to everything.

    If you love genocide so much, why don’t you just go marry it?

  41. Three words, sage:

    Giant windshield wipers.

  42. Stop trying to put honest laborers out of work, joe. Someone has to feed his kids off of crane-scrape wages.

  43. SugarFree,

    Luddite.

  44. Neu Mejican,

    I got a pair of shoes with your name on them.

  45. SugarFree wants to crucify giant windshield-wiper manufacturers on a giant, rotating cross of aluminum.

    And also, he’s teh racist.

  46. If people like whooping cranes so much, why not create whooping crane farms, like turkey farms, then we could eat them.

  47. Tradeoffs. Everything is tradeoffs.

    Not according to Kant or natural law theorists! 🙂

  48. SugarFree wants to crucify giant windshield-wiper manufacturers on a giant, rotating cross of aluminum.

    Crap! I been found out! Damn your eyes, joe!

    OK, I’ll admit that I short sell giant-windshield stock and profit by slagging them anonymously on teh internetz.

  49. Wow, an actual shill for Big-Something!

  50. Very well. I propose removing all traces of human presence wherever whooping cranes might be. By force, if necessary.

    Oil and coal are much more whooping crane-friendly.

  51. Stehn and others say no whooping cranes have been killed by a wind turbine

    Look you could even know that.

    Are cranes good to eat?

    You damn betcha they are. They are a darker, richer meat than chicken.

  52. I recommend frequent, savage beatings.

    By wind turbine rotors!

  53. I would think that with global warming running rampant, the cranes would love the cool breeze generated by all these big fans.

    WIND MILLS DO NOT WORK THAT WAY!

  54. Sadly, Episiarch, wind-turbine beatings tend to a be a one-off affair.

  55. Ignore Charles, his mom was a windmill and he’s still a bit touchy about the subject.

  56. The whooping cranes should enlist the aid of Don Quixote.

  57. Who’s going to miss 266 cranes?

  58. It’s not the cranes so much as their whooping that will be missed.

  59. Seriously, what crane is going to fly into a giant black bear mouth? Plus who is going to complain about a 100 foot wolverine in their “back yard”?

    It’s the perfect solution!

  60. The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) (awea.org) is very much aware of bird / turbine issues. In fact, they were one of the first organizations to accept that the claims of birds colliding with turbines were real and not an anti-wind tactic of Big Coal. The American Wind Wildlife Institute (AWWI) represents their committed efforts towards mitigating the conflict.

  61. If you want a definitive answer we MUST hear from Mr Stephen Crane.

  62. That’s Mr. Steven “Whoopmeister” Crane.

  63. Come on, we know that 266 whooping cranes aren’t going to be wiped out by wind turbines.

    They are going to be wiped out by land owners, who are affraid their land might be declared protected whooping crane habitat, and are going to shoot and bury them on site.

  64. If they’re smart, they’ll shoot them, then dump the bodies near a wind turbine.

  65. You damn betcha they are. They are a darker, richer meat than chicken.

    You know, I almost thought that last word was “children.”

    Which would also be true.

  66. If they’re smart, they’ll shoot them, then dump the bodies near a wind turbine.

    …thus providing Big Coal the necessary evidence to argue that windmills are bad because they carry firearms.

    “Dodge my 300 foot-per-second blades, will you? How will you do against a 1000 foot-per-second bullet, tough whooping crane?”

  67. I thought Tom Robbins had the solution to this problem…

  68. SeanH — thanks for the info. I think the damming issue is more in Texas.

    RC — forgive me if I missed the irony, but do you actually eat cranes? Is it legal to eat sandhills or something? Anyhow, I’m pretty sure children are mostly dark meat.

  69. Crane foie gras is to die for….

  70. charles,
    of course that’s how they work. Every time I passed the big wind farm between Banning and Palm springs on I-10 I noted that if the fans were spinning, it was windier than hell. When the fans were still, there was no wind. Duh.

  71. Are cranes good to eat? I bet they taste like chicken

    Nope. More like eagle.

  72. “If you want a definitive answer we MUST hear from Mr Stephen Crane.”

    that’s Doctor Stephen Crane; who sadly is busy with psychology matters at Arkham Asylum. Though I am sure he has a few ideas about certain flying things and windmills.

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