Wind farms are not ‘bird blenders’, a new study has found, but the construction does damage populations of curlew, snipe and red grouse.
Researchers from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), Scottish Natural Heritage and the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) looked at 10 bird species at 18 wind farm sites in the UK.
They found minimal impact on birds from flying into rotating turbines.
However the study, published in the Journal of Applied Biology, found strong evidence that some species suffered serious harm while wind farms are being built.
Curlew numbers remained “significantly lower” after the wind farms began operating, as they abandoned nesting sites. Snipe numbers also failed to recover, falling by more than half within 400m of the study sites. Red grouse numbers also fell but rose again after construction finished.
The study’s authors said these findings were balanced out by the discovery that two species, the skylark and stonechat – which prefer open, broken and short vegetation – flourished during the building phase. The other species, such as meadow pipit, golden plover, wheatear, dunlin and lapwings, showed either no change or less certain reactions
Martin Harper, the RSPB’s UK conservation director, said the study showed more care needs to be taken in siting wind farms.
“It shows that there can be serious species-level impacts in the construction phase, so construction in the right place is absolutely key. But what it hasn’t shown is that wind farms are ‘bird blenders’. There is no impact from the turning of the blades,” he said.
However the study did not look at golden eagles, one of the main species that protesters claim fly into wind turbines.
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