'WingWhackers' app puts spotlight on conflict between birds and wind turbines

Dec 3, 2013

A smartphone app that’s trying to raise awareness about conflicts between wind turbines and birds saw a spike in downloads after a settlement over eagle deaths at wind farms in Wyoming was announced last week.

The game is called WingWhackers, and the premise is pretty simple. You’re a protected bird of some kind -- an eagle, an owl, a hawk, and you need to make it home with dinner, through a field of spinning wind turbines.

“The more levels you get ahead, the more power is generated... the faster the turbines go, and the harder it obviously is to get home,” says Gabriel García, the game’s producer and co-creator. 

García says, like any game, Wing Whackers is supposed to be fun. But it’s also designed to raise awareness.

“We have so many people that play the game, and then come back to us and say ‘I had no idea this was real,’” he says.

In the days after Duke Energy agreed to pay a million dollar fine for golden eagle deaths at two of its Wyoming wind farms, Garcia says the app was downloaded more than a thousand times.

He says the development team celebrated the fine, but that he doesn’t want to stop wind energy development -- Garcia just wants to make sure it’s being adequately regulated.

And he hopes the game is getting people interested in the problems, and in developing solutions.