The White-throated Needletail is thought to be the fastest bird on the planet. It is not endangered, but it is rarely seen in Europe. However, an alert went out last week on the Rare Bird Alert Twitter feed, telling bird-watching enthusiasts that one had been spotted on the Outer Hebrides, an island chain off the west coast of Scotland.
The last confirmed sighting of this bird in the United Kingdom was 22 years ago, so understandably, many bird watchers (about 80 according to one source) went to see it. Here is a video that was taken by one of those people:
The joy these birdwatchers felt in seeing this rare sight quickly turned to anguish, however, when the bird flew into a wind turbine and died. While no one caught the actual death on camera, here is a video of the bird after it was killed by the turbine:
NPR’s website quotes some of the birdwatchers as they reacted to the killing:
It was really beautiful when it was flying around, graceful and with such speed…To suddenly see it fly into a turbine and fall out the sky was terrible.
I followed it and then watched as it flew into one of the blades of the wind turbine and vanished. My heart jumped into my mouth. We dashed over to see if it had been killed and sadly found its body on the ground. It was heartbreaking.
Normally, I wouldn’t write about this kind of thing, but not too long ago, I wrote about a detailed study of how many birds and bats are killed by wind turbines each year. The numbers were startling, at least to me. The problem is that technical studies like that one rarely get much press, and they rarely have an impact on public policy. I wonder if this single example will make the public more aware of the dangers of wind turbines.
Now please don’t misunderstand what I am saying. I am not saying that wind turbines are bad for the environment. I am also not saying they are good for the environment. I am saying we really don’t have any idea whether or not wind turbines are good or bad for the environment, because serious studies of their dangers and benefits have not been done. However, in our haste to cure a problem that probably doesn’t exist (global warming), some groups have latched on to wind turbines as one way to “save the planet.”
Unfortunately, we don’t know whether or not this method of “saving the planet” will end up doing more harm than good!