Wind and solar are slaughtering India's iconic bird

By commissioning expensive and inefficient wind and solar electric-generating facilities, India may have dug the grave of its own efforts to save its beloved and critically endangered bird, known as Great Indian bustard, which is distantly related to the crane.

Image: Satish Surawa, via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 4.0 DEED

Erected to avert a faux climate crisis, the so-called renewable machines and their attendant transmission lines are helping to drive one of Earth’s largest flying birds to the brink of extinction. 

Avian aficionados such as myself have long bemoaned prioritizing wind and solar technologies at the expense of endangered flora and fauna. In India, this bird is special, and almost became the national bird, losing out to the more spectacular peacock. Yet, the relentless push for needless climate solutions seems to ignore this as “green energy” installations and avian fatalities increase in tandem.

Though well documented, the issue of bird fatalities worldwide is frequently downplayed and, at times, even deemed a regrettable but essential consequence of the quasi-religious war against global warming.

As a master’s student at the University of East Anglia, U.K., I did a specialized research thesis on the collision-mortality of endangered bird species in southern Portugal, which included kestrels, eagles, falcons, harriers and the European great bustard, which is a relative of the Indian bird. Numerous other species were affected as well.

Listed as Critically Endangered on the Red List of Threatened Species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, the great Indian bustard stands more than 3 feet high and weighs more than 30 pounds. 

The bird is endemic to the Thar desert region of western India. It has now become conclusive that wind and solar transmission lines in this region are driving their numbers very close to extinction in the wild. 

In 2008, a survey estimated that there were only around 250 Great Indian bustards in existence, limited to the states of Rajasthan and Gujarat. Fast forward to 2018, the count had dropped to 150, with 25 of these magnificent birds housed in the government's captive breeding centers. The main culprits: wind and solar

Prerna Singh Bindra, a wildlife conservationist and former member of the National Board for Wildlife, says,

“In recent years, the death blow to the Great Indian bustard has come from unexpected quarters — the expanse of wind farms and power transmission lines that crisscross its last remaining habitats … The question that needs to be asked is, how green is renewable energy when it leads to the extinction of a critically endangered species?”

If timely action is not taken, these grassland birds could be soon declared extinct, according to Indian biologists. The bustard’s habitat was greatly restricted by transmission lines belonging to wind turbines. This is a common problem worldwide. Collision mortality, loss of breeding and forage habitats, and impedance of migratory pathways are some of the main impacts of wind turbines.

It is not just the bustards. Over 100,000 birds of diverse species die as a result of electrocution from transmission lines connecting wind and solar to the grid, according to a Wildlife Institute of India report.

The Supreme Court of India, in a 2021 order, asked utility companies to install underground transmission lines and install markers to lessen hazards to birds. However, the companies continue to violate this order. Government interest in the case seems to be lacking, with insignificant funds allocated toward the issue and no proactive measures to assess bird populations or document changes in habitat.

While the country is very clear about ensuring continued use of fossil fuels to meet energy needs, the government’s delay in dismantling useless renewable energy projects is especially disappointing in light of their devastating effect on birds.

The arguments of “green” advocates that equate green energy infrastructure with house cats that also kill birds trivialize the issue. The feline at home is more likely a target than a predator of raptors and would rarely encounter aquatic species.

In this instance, the color of the climate alarmists’ favored machines is blood red, not green.

Vijay Jayaraj is a Research Associate at the CO2 Coalition, Arlington, Virginia. He holds a master’s degree in environmental sciences from the University of East Anglia, U.K.

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