September 14, 2006
Blogs, Norway

Windfarm Wipes Out White-tailed Eagles

Not much time to post of late but, as a keen birdwatcher (not much time for that either at present), I was saddened to read of the plight of the White-tailed Eagle population on the Smoela archipelago in Norway, which has been decimated by an ill-advised windfarm. This year, only one eagle is expected to fledge from the windfarm site on the bird’s former stronghold of Smoela, a set of islands about 10 km off the coast of northwest Norway. Turbine blades have killed nine eagles in the last ten months, including all three chicks that fledged last year.

There were up to 19 pairs of eagles breeding on the 20 square km windfarm site before construction work started in 2001; this year, just one pair has young. In 1989 Smoela was designated as an Important Bird Area because it had one of the highest densities of White-tailed Eagles in the world. The Norwegian government was consistently warned that Smoela was therefore totally inapropriate for a windfarm development (Norway is the most important country in the world for White-tailed Eagles).

Smoela demonstrates the damage that can be caused by a windfarm in the wrong location. Like most, I support renewable energies, including wind, but the deaths of adult birds and the three young hatched last year make the prospects for White-tailed Eagles on the island look bleak. These deaths show just how inadequate existing decision-making processes are for new technologies such as windfarms. Developers and governments should take note. These types of impact must be properly considered and acted upon when proposals are first made to avoid the unnecessary losses as witnessed on Smoela.

The eagles’ deaths has confirmed fears expressed by Birdlife and the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) and show how devastating a poorly sited windfarm can be.

I have only once been privileged to see a White-tailed Eagle (1990 in Norway, according to my records) and it was a majestic sight indeed.

The plight of these magnificent birds is probably “small change”, given the world’s present predicaments, but in my book at least, “progress” must not be allowed to fly in the face of conservation.

I wonder if anyone will listen…..

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