The number of eagles killed by turbine blades at one of Australia’s largest wind farms is climbing, with a rare juvenile wedge-tailed eagle the 22nd to die at Woolnorth in Tasmania’s north-west.
The farm is killing two protected species at the rate of about 3.2 eagles a year, according to a count by the operator, Roaring 40s.
Most of the birds were wedge-tailed, but three white bellied sea eagles have also been killed by the blades, Roaring 40s avian ecologist Cindy Hull said in Hobart.
“The frustration for us is that the rate is staying constant despite our mitigation efforts,” Dr Hull said.
The endangered Tasmanian sub-species of the wedge-tailed eagle is estimated by the state’s National Parks and Wildlife Service to number only 130 successful breeding pairs.
State Greens MP Paul O’Halloran said he understood the juvenile killed recently was the only successful local fledgling from the last breeding season.
However, Dr Hull said that, although the bird was a juvenile, it was not a fledgling from last season, and it was not known whether it had bred in the locality.
“We must do all that we can to avoid the loss of this critically endangered species from the entire region,” Mr O’Halloran said.
Deaths of wedge-tailed and sea eagles began to rise at Woolnorth after operations began in 2003.
The rising number led to Roaring 40s testing bird-scaring devices and halting some of the farm’s 62 turbines in wind conditions judged more risky for the birds.
The company, a joint venture of Hydro Tasmania and China Light & Power Asia, has also begun a program of eagle nest protection and education around the rest of the state, which is hoped to offset the losses.
Tasmanian Environment Minister David O’Byrne said that wind farms made up only a small proportion of overall eagle deaths in the state, compared with shooting, trapping, and collisions with electrical and fencing wires.
Mr O’Byrne said collisions were anticipated in Woolnorth’s development approval.
“It is an unfortunate outcome that with developments of this nature some bird collisions are inevitable,” he said.
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