Lethal Attraction

The effect of wind turbines on bird populations is still debated and is a controversial issue. A YouTube video discusses how California’s largest wind farm cluster at Altamont Pass unintentionally kills golden eagles, burrowing owls and other birds. In another YouTube video, two White Storks fly close to a wind turbine.
Although the RSPB supported positive planning for “the development of onshore wind in the UK on the scale now required”, the RSPB now recognises that windfarms are a danger to raptors. This page attempts to catalogue the windfarms’ threat to many bird and bat species, including golden eagles whose grouse prey could be scared from the area affected by turbines. An important paper for ornithologists to cite is from Biodivers Conserv DOI 10.1007/s10531-006-9082-1 Impact of wind turbines on birds in Zeebrugge (Belgium) Significant effect on breeding tern colony due to collisions Joris Everaert Æ Eric W. M. Stienen Received: 18 April 2006 / Accepted: 12 June 2006

“…We recommend that there should be precautionary avoidance of constructing new wind turbines close to any important breeding colony of terns or gulls, nor should artificial breeding sites be constructed near wind turbines, especially not within the frequent foraging flight paths.
An exhaustive study before the selection of future wind farm locations is a key factor to avoid deleterious impacts of wind farms on birds. In general, current knowledge indicates that there should be precautionary avoidance of locating wind farms in all important bird areas and/or migration routes.”

J. Everaert (&) Æ E. W. M. Stienen
Research Institute for Nature and Forest, Kliniekstraat 25, B-1070 Brussels, Belgium

June 6th 2011 ~ Scores of protected golden eagles dying after colliding with wind turbines

The Daily Mail reports on the situation in California where

“attempts to switch to green energy have inadvertently put the survival of the state’s golden eagles at risk. Scores of the protected birds have been dying each year after colliding with the blades of about 5,000 wind turbines. Now the drive for renewable power sources, such as wind and the sun, being promoted by President Obama and state Governor Jerry Brown has raised fears that the number of newborn golden eagles may not be able to keep pace with the number of turbine fatalities….”

Field biologist Doug Bell, manager of East Bay Regional Park District’s wildlife programme, told the Los Angeles Times that it would take 167 pairs of local nesting golden eagles to produce enough young to compensate for their mortality rate related to wind energy production – and that there are only 60 pairs. In America about 440,000 birds are said to be accidentally killed at wind farms each year, as well as thousands more bats. The California Condor, who was saved from extinction by public donations, is now also said to be at risk from turbines’ giant blades.

April 5th 2011 ~ A white-tailed sea eagle introduced to the Killarney National Park from Norway just three years ago has been found dead below a wind turbine near Kilgarvan

This is an area “designated as suitable for wind farms in the Kerry county development plan” These areas are likely to be reviewed now in the light of their effect on the introduced birds, which have low reproduction rates. There will also be a series of recommendations for existing wind farms See .full story

February 23 2011 ~ Inspector backs council decision to reject Mynydd y Gwair wind farm

Western Mail “…scheme to site a wind farm high above Swansea has been rejected by a planning inspector.
The inspector backed Swansea council’s rejection of a plan by RWE npower Renewables for 19 turbines, each 216ft tall, at Mynydd y Gwair. Swansea Civic Society, the Open Spaces Society, various community councils and the Gower Society were among objectors to the scheme.
They said the giant turbines would kill rare birds including red kites, spoil views from the Gower Peninsula and the Brecon Beacons, and only produce intermittent power. …. Glyn Morgan, of Save our Common Mountain Environment, said the decision would

“save the outstanding natural environment surrounding Swansea This land is an outstanding resource for upland farming and fantastic amenity for Swansea. It should never be industrialised.”

July 5th 2010 ~ Primary school forced to turn off wind turbine after bird deaths

The Sunday Telegraph reports that Southwell Community Primary School, Portland has been forced to switch off a £20,000 wind turbine because it keeps killing passing seabirds.

“The rotary blades on the 30ft (9m) structure have struck at least 14 birds in the past six months. The turbine, at Southwell Community Primary School, Portland, was installed 18 months ago thanks to a grant from the Department of Energy and Climate Change. … It provided six kilowatts of power an hour, but its performance was overshadowed by the number of birds killed – far higher than the one fatality per year predicted by the manufacturer. Headteacher Stuart McLeod was even forced to come into school early to clear up the bodies before his young pupils spotted them. … “We’ve tried so hard to be eco-friendly but now we can’t turn it on. We can’t get rid of it either because we bought the turbine we had to apply for grants and the grant from the Department of Energy and Climate Change states that it has to stay on site for five years.” The school is now negotiating with Dorset County Council about the future of the wind turbine.”

June 25th 2010 ~ Rare red kite found dead at a wind farm that had been termed “harmless to wildlife”

The Scotsman reports that a rare red kite has been found dead at the Fairburn wind farm in Ross-shire in the Highlands, killed after colliding with a turbine . It was examined by a Scottish Agricultural College vet and was found to have suffered bruising and fractures consistent with an impact.

“…The kite was satellite tagged as part of a monitoring project under the Eyes To The Skies project. Its flight path was being logged by RSPB Scotland as well as children from Aviemore Primary School, who adopted the bird and nicknamed it “Tweety Pie”. RSPB red kite community officer Claire Buchanan said: “We had been tracking its progress through its satellite tag and plotting its movements on our dedicated website. It is really sad that we have lost Tweety Pie and, of course, the children have been much saddened about what has happened. Any loss of a kite is serious because the red kite population on the Black Isle is already under intense pressure due to illegal killing.”

An informed emailer writes today, “Interestingly, on the continent, collisions with power lines and wind farms are a major cause of death for white-tailed eagles. One German study found 22% mortality from power lines and wind farms. In a Swedish study it was 50% and in a Finnish one it was 36%. In Norway, wind turbines have caused the deaths of four white-tailed eagles on islands off the Norwegian coast. At a 68-turbine windfarm on the Norwegian island of Smola, 11 eagles were killed within five months and 30 eagles (several species) have failed to return to their nests, although they normally return year on year.. In America they have killed vast numbers and in Spain as well.”

April 4th 2010 ~ Horrible video of big bird’s death in a wind turbine

See- if you have the stomach for it – http://wattsupwiththat.com/2010/04/03/big-bird-meets-big-green/

March 25 2010 ~ Ted Hughes would have been as sad as we are…

A letter in the Times yesterday about how the countryside of which Ted Hughes wrote is fast being inundated with wind turbines

Sir, Your leading article (“Bard of Nature”, Mar 23) on Ted Hughes concludes that we should “cherish the landscape he loved, and then go for a long walk, on a windy hillside, in the rain”. Best come quickly. Ancient Elmet, the countryside of which he wrote, is fast being inundated with wind turbines, visible for 30 miles. The moorland nests of skylarks, curlews, lapwings and twite are being bulldozed to make way for concrete pits. As for Hughes’s Hawk in the Rain, raptors seem to have a particularly poor record near turbine blades.
Keith Milligan

In an email, Angela Kelly comments, “…How sad. Ted Hughes was just one of many signatories in a letter of objection to The Times when Bronte country was under threat of a wind farm in 1994/5. We mounted a campaign against the wind farm at the Hay Festival of Literature.”

March 2010 ~ Wind turbines: ‘Eco-friendly’ – but not to eagles

Sunday Telegraph The same hills that provide lift for soaring birds offer heavily subsidised profits for wind farm developers, writes Christopher Booker. Extract

“…..Large birds of prey are far from being the only victims of wind farms, and the thousands of miles of power lines needed to connect them to the grid. A study cited by Birdlife International shows that, each year, power lines can be responsible for up to 800 bird kills per mile.
Vast numbers of other birds are killed by turbines each year, as are countless thousands of bats, which also seem to be drawn to wind farms, and which recent studies have shown die with their lungs distended by air pressure from the blades.
For the rest of us, it is a criminal offence to kill bats and golden eagles. But it seems that all those under the spell of the infatuation with windpower and global warming can claim exemption from the law. In return for ludicrously small amounts of very expensive electricity, wildlife must pay the price for their dreams.”

Jan 22 2010 ~ Council votes to oppose wind farm

Western Mail “A Planning committee yesterday voted to lodge an objection to plans for the biggest wind turbines in Wales. The planned Npower Renewables 19-turbine wind farm would be visible from the Brecon Beacons National park and the Gower Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Councillors also heard yesterday Npower Renewables accepted the turbines, almost as big as the London Eye, would kill some red kites, kestrels and golden plovers plus bats. The objection by Swansea council to the development on land to the north of the city will be powerful evidence in a public inquiry on plans for the wind farm at Mynydd y Gwair Common later this year.”

January 4, 2010 ~ Windfarms threat to curlews

Daelnet “Rare upland bird species like the curlew… are being driven from their traditional nesting sites by wind farms, according to research in Scotland. Other species affected are buzzards, golden plovers and red grouse, say scientists from the Scottish RSPB and Scottish Natural Heritage, who believe that the turbines act as “giant scarecrows” frightening birds and driving them away. This news will cause anger in the Yorkshire Dales and many other hilly areas of Britain, which are threatened with a massive increase in onshore wind turbines……it sets a conundrum for the environment department Defra, which has a widely quoted public policy devoted to restoring the numbers of farmland birds which have been in decline for decades. Some officials at Defra believe that a healthy wild bird population is a key indicator to the health of the local environment – yet others are pressing for more and more windfarms.” Read in full

January 3, 2010 ~ ‘Scarecrow’ wind farms put rare birds to flight

Jonathan Leake, Environment Editor of The Sunday Times reports that the RSPB “does not oppose wind farms” but wants them sited away from areas where birds feed or breed

“Britain’s upland birds are in danger of being driven off hills and mountains by onshore wind farms. Scientists have found that birds, including buzzards, golden plovers, curlews and red grouse, are abandoning countryside around wind farms because the turbines act as giant scarecrows, frightening them away.
… researchers warn that, with hundreds more planned, plus an increase in the size of turbines, the effect could become much worse.

“We found evidence for localised reductions in bird breeding density around upland wind farms. Importantly, for the first time, we have quantified such effects across a wide range of species,” said James Pearce-Higgins, an ecologist with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds in Scotland. His research was conducted with scientists from Scottish Natural Heritage and the Scottish government’s environment research directorate. It is one of the first scientific analyses of how the wind-farm construction programme might affect wildlife.

…. The British Wind Energy Association has said the idea that UK wind farms affect birds is a “myth” and warns that climate change is a far greater threat.”

(The quotation that springs to mind is, “Well, they would say that, wouldn’t they.”.)

December 2 2009 ~ “A vast swath of northern and western Scotland could be set aside to give greater protection to one of the UK’s most enigmatic birds of prey.”

From the Independent

“There are just over 40 breeding pairs of golden eagles left in Britain, all but one in Scotland, but plans for the establishment of a 350,000-hectare Special Protection Area designed to safeguard the future of the raptor has brought conservationists into conflict with the renewable energy industry. A 14-turbine wind farm near Inverary in Argyll was turned down by the Scottish government in October. Meanwhile, Scottish Natural Heritage will begin a three-month consultation on the SPA proposals in the new year….There are currently eight Special Protection Areas for golden eagles in the peatlands and uplands of northern and western Scotland favoured by the birds.
However the species, which saw numbers decline dramatically in recent centuries due to persecution and agricultural poisoning, remains vulnerable and highly dependent on large undisturbed spaces to hunt.
The new proposed sites will include Glen Affric as well as Jura, Scarba and the Garvellachs off the west coast. “

Oct 28 2009 ~ ” an awful irony that such positive steps were made in protecting the Lewis Peatlands.. yet now a smaller development can sneak through and have a negative impact on this fantastic wildlife habitat”

The Pentland Road windfarm scheme outside Stornoway has been given the go-ahead. From the Press and Journal

“Western Isles planners have approved the go-ahead of a controversial windfarm located near to protected moorland and golden eagles. And last night the RSPB said they were extremely concerned at the decision to approve the six-turbine development.
The Pentland Road scheme outside Stornoway was originally mooted nearly eight years ago but was delayed by objections from air traffic control and aviation bodies.
A public inquiry was due to be held but negotiations between the developer and National Air Traffic Services, Highlands and Islands Airports which operates Stornoway Airport and the Civil Aviation Authority have sorted out the dispute. Yesterday the council’s planning committee granted planning permission for the scheme which is expected to be fully ratified without any debate by the full council next week. The council is now negotiating with its developer in an effort to gain some community ownership in the scheme. The developer is believed to have recently changed its name from Farm Energy to Pentland Road Windfarm Ltd. RSPB Scotland said consent for a windfarm within a designated Special Protection Area (SPA) was worrying for the future of golden eagles whose grouse prey could be scared from the area. They said that despite guidelines from SNH calling for raptors to be observed for at least a year to properly determine flight habits, the developer’s eagle survey was conducted over two months.”

In fact, we read that a one-day survey was conducted by local SNH officers in 2003. They found only two pairs of grouse within about 800 yards of the proposed turbines and concluded that this would not represent a significant loss of the eagle’s prey. However, the paper quotes Western Isles conservation officer for RSPB Scotland, Martin Scott

“We are extremely disappointed at this decision, which is clearly based on poor, or completely absent, background information. It is an awful irony that such positive steps were made in protecting the Lewis Peatlands SPA from the larger Lewis Windpower proposal, and yet now a smaller development can sneak through and have a negative impact on this fantastic wildlife habitat.”

26 September 2009 ~ ‘Poorly positioned’ wind farms reduce rare birds’ breeding

The Scotsman “Some of Scotland’s most vulnerable bird species are in decline because of “poorly positioned” wind turbines, a new study has shown. The RSPB Scotland study looked at 12 operating upland wind farms in the UK and found that numbers of several birds of high conservation concern are reduced close to the turbines. Affected birds include the hen harrier and golden plover, which are protected under European law, and the curlew, which is a high-priority species under the UK Biodiversity Action Plan. The study found that the population density of breeding birds is reduced by between 15 and 53 per cent when nests are within 500 metres of a turbine……. The upland wind farms were surveyed six times during the breeding season for a dozen species: golden plover, lapwing, curlew, snipe, red grouse, buzzard, hen harrier, kestrel, skylark, meadow pipit, stonechat and wheatear. The distribution of birds across each wind farm was compared with that on similar nearby sites without turbines.
Seven species – buzzard, hen harrier, golden plover, snipe, curlew, wheatear and meadow pipit – were found less often than would be expected close to the turbines.
Andy Douse, ornithological policy and advice manager with Scottish Natural Heritage said: “SNH welcome the publication of this important paper, as it provides us with unequivocal evidence of both the nature and scale of bird displacement at operational wind farms.” The study was funded by RSPB Scotland, the Scottish Government, Scottish Natural Heritage, and the Scottish Mountaineering Trust.”

24 July 2009 ~ Gull killer turbines are removed

BBC An aquarium in Devon has taken down two wind turbines after seagulls were killed when they collided with the blades. The 15m (50ft) high 6kW turbines at the National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth were installed in 2006 for a £3.6m sustainable energies project. But the Hoe-based attraction has taken them down after several birds died, it said. The aquarium also said they had not produced as much electricity as hoped. Caroline Johnson, of the aquarium, said: “The major problems included where they were positioned. “The eddying effect of the wind meant they weren’t producing as much energy as they potentially could have. “The loss of life of seagulls flying into the turbines was also a problem and, following a gale, the turbines were damaged.”

January 10, 2009 ~ Bats surpassing birds as ecological concern

Wind Watch “New research shows that the study of bat mortality at wind turbines should be the primary ecological concern for developers. Night-vision goggles, thermal imaging equipment, echolocation radar detectors and marine radar are not the usual tools found on wind farms, but in the eastern U.S. and western Canada, scientists and developers seeking to prevent bat fatalities are using this equipment to track the elusive creatures…”

30 October 2008 ~ Birds in danger

Western Mail
SIR – The multinational energy giant nPower wants to build a huge wind “farm” on Mynydd-y-Gair, north of Swansea and very close to another similar development at Mynydd Betws sponsored by Cambrian Renewable Energy. In a booklet, which was sent to residents, nPower claimed the RSPB says “we have not so far witnessed any major adverse effects on birds associated with wind farms.”
This is at odds with nPower’s planning application in which an ecological assessment admits that “cumulative impact on red kite may be significant at geographical scales in excess of ‘local’, should both wind farms be constructed”. This year the Ornithological Society of Gotland reported the killing of more than a dozen golden eagle and white tailed eagle by wind turbines on the Swedish island, and in Wales, there are already documented deaths by wind turbine of two red kite, Wales’ iconic bird, so recently pulled back from the verge of extinction.
Llanhowell, Pembrokeshire

25 August 2008 ~Wind turbines make bat lungs explode

New Scientist “Beware: exploding lungs” is not a sign one would expect to see at a wind farm. But a new study suggests this is the main reason bats die in large numbers around wind turbines. The risk that wind turbines pose to birds is well known and has dogged debates over wind energy. In fact, several studies have suggested the risk to bats is greater. In May 2007, the US National Research Council published the results of a survey of US wind farms showing that two bat species accounted for 60% of winged animals killed. Migrating birds, meanwhile, appear to steer clear of the turbines. Why bats – who echolocate moving objects – are killed by turbines has remained a mystery until now. The research council thought the high-frequency noise from the turbines’ gears and blades could be disrupting the bats’ echolocation systems. In fact, a new study shows that the moving blades cause a drop in pressure that makes the delicate lungs of bats suddenly expand, bursting the tissue’s blood vessels. This is known as a barotrauma, and is well-known to scuba divers….”

August 2008 ~ Youths blamed for luring gulls to death in wind turbines

www.wind-watch.orgHeartless youths have been accused of mutilating and massacring seagulls by luring them to their deaths in wind turbines. Bird lovers in the town had complained to the Evening Mail about the high death toll caused by the wind turbine outside Tesco’s store off Hindpool Road in Barrow. But the superstore giant now claims many of the deaths are down to youngsters who entice the birds into the whirling blades by throwing food into air….”

January 23, 2006 ~ Wind farms condemned as eagles fall prey to turbines

The Times “The drive for clean energy is bad news for one of Britain’s rarest birds WIND turbines have caused the deaths of four white-tailed eagles on isolated islands off the Norwegian coast. Thirty other eagles have failed to return to their nesting sites within the wind farm area on Smola, 9.6km (six miles) northwest of Norway, according to wildlife campaigners. The dead birds were found between August and December last year. Two had been sliced in half, apparently by a turbine blade. Post-mortem examinations, however, attributed the birds’ deaths to multiple trauma caused by a heavy blow. ..”


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