News Brief

Coal, Not Wind or Solar, Is Worst for Birds

It might not have a “death ray,” but coal power kills millions of birds a year, a new report asserts.

Avian Mortality By Energy Source

Source: U.S. News & World Report
The thought of songbirds spontaneously combusting in midair horrifies even the staunchest supporters of solar power, yet all other ways of generating electricity harm many times more birds, a report claims in the wake of news that the largest solar farm in the U.S. may be killing thousands of birds a year.

“Even if nearly 30,000 birds a year are getting sent to their fiery doom, that’s a mere fraction compared to other U.S. energy sources,” writes Alan Neuhauser of U.S. News & World Report. Data from a variety of sources—some of which do not share methodology, Neuhauser cautions—suggest that the most devastating effects for birds come from climate change, making coal the worst among the energy sources considered (see graph). This conclusion is based on a 2009 study by Benjamin Sovacool that analyzed wind, nuclear, and fossil-fuel-powered plants and concluded, “Wind farms and nuclear power stations are responsible each for between 0.3 and 0.4 fatalities per GWh of electricity, while fossil-fueled power stations are responsible for about 5.2 fatalities per GWh.”

Meanwhile, cats remain the largest single known threat from humans (see More Proof that Housecats Are Birds’ Biggest Enemy), and glass buildings also have a greater impact than any energy source (see Design for the Birds: Protecting Birds from the Hazards of Glass).

Published September 12, 2014

Melton, P. (2014, September 12). Coal, Not Wind or Solar, Is Worst for Birds. Retrieved from

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