Every spring and fall, many millions of songbirds migrate long distances between nesting grounds in Canada or the northern United States and wintering grounds in the southern U.S. or the tropics. These birds mostly fly at night and spend the days resting and feeding. Although some birds may stop over practically anywhere, a few areas are major stopover habitats, critically important to the survival of large numbers of birds. One such region involves a series of sites along the south shore of Lake Erie, in the northwestern part of the state of Ohio.
Because of the sheer numbers and variety of birds concentrating here, thousands of birders come to northwest Ohio every spring and fall, providing a significant boost to the local economy. For example, the Ohio Division of Wildlife estimated 50,000 birders visiting the area during the first two weeks of May in 2010.
Unfortunately, the habitats that support the migratory birds are now threatened by proposals to build wind turbines nearby. Wind industry consultants suggest that birds will be unaffected, because the birds usually migrate at heights of more than 500 feet above the ground. But this does not apply at major stopover sites, where vast numbers of birds are taking off or landing. And because the birds mostly migrate at night, they are taking off or landing in the dim light of dusk or pre-dawn, when it would be most difficult for them to see obstacles such as wind turbines.
Black Swamp Bird Observatory has more than 20 years of data proving that this region is globally significant for migratory birds. But studies are just beginning to establish the rate of climb or descent for birds leaving or arriving in these stopover habitats, so it is too early to say how much of a buffer zone would be needed around major stopover sites to avoid killing huge numbers of birds.
Considering the importance of these stopover habitats to both the migratory birds and the local economy, we urge you to support a three-year moratorium on the building of any additional wind turbines within the area of greatest concern: specifically, within three miles of the Lake Erie shoreline in Lucas, Ottawa, Sandusky, and Erie Counties.