Wind turbines threaten Midwest birds, feds say

Wind turbines could be forcing native bird populations into decline in the Great Plains, a government study finds, raising new concerns about the long-term effects of renewable energy on wildlife.

The U.S. Geological Survey on Monday said wind farms "placed in prime wildlife habitat in North and South Dakota can influence the distribution of several species of grassland birds for years after construction, including species whose populations are in serious decline."

The study, funded by the Geological Survey and utility firm NextEra Energy, was published in the journal Conservation Biology on Friday. The type of long-term research done by the agency on the effects of renewable energy on breeding bird habitats is "rare," the study notes.

The agency found that seven of nine bird species studied from 2003-12 were displaced from areas in North and South Dakota after a wind facility was built. Some of the species fled the area in the first year after construction, while many continued to leave their breeding habitat for up to five years after construction, according to the Geological Survey.