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Why birds crash into wind turbines

Birds are not so eagle-eyed after all, according to a new study, that found golden eagles and other species crash into wind turbines and power lines because they do not look where they are going.

Professor Graham Martin at the University of Birmingham said large birds of prey and sea birds are particularly vulnerable to crashing into man made structures.

“There are some studies that definitely show that sizeable numbers of birds will get clobbered by wind turbines in particular locations,” he said.

In a new study, published in the journal Ibis, he suggested the reason the birds are susceptible is because they have evolved to look for movement either side and potential prey on the ground rather than straight ahead.

“We have got two eyes in the front of our heads and our best vision is forward,” he said. “But that is not the case for a lot of animals. Their best vision is laterally or down.”

Prof Martin suggested that to avoid bird collisions in future, wind farms or other structures should try and distract birds with decoys on the ground or the sound of danger.

“People have tried to avoid the problem by looking at it from a human point of view,” he said. “But our vision is all about looking forward, we need to consider what will work for certain animals and even species.

“Armed with this understanding of bird perception we can better consider solutions to the problem of collisions,” he said. “While solutions may have to be considered on a species by species basis, where collision incidents are high it may be more effective to divert or distract birds from their flight path rather than attempt to make the hazard more conspicuous.”

Conservationists welcomed the study as an opportunity to reduce bird fatalities while supporting renewable energy.

The Royal Society of Birds (RSPB) is in favour of wind turbines, but has campaigned for the turbines to be sited carefully so that they are not in the flight path of birds.