Thursday, October 02, 2008

Wind Farms and Open-Country Birds

According to a British study, wind farms do not pose a serious risk for open-country passerines.

"The message on farmland specifically is that, so far, the evidence we have gathered shows that there is little effect on farmland birds," explained co-author Mark Whittingham, from Newcastle University's School of Biology.

The team carried out surveys around two wind farms located in the East Anglian fens, recording almost 3,000 birds from 23 different species.

Their data showed that the presence of the turbines did not affect the distribution of seed-eating birds, corvids or skylarks.

"This is the first evidence suggesting that the present and future location of large numbers of wind turbines on European farmland is unlikely to have detrimental effects on farmland birds," said Dr Whittingham.
Unfortunately this study does not address the potential risks for raptors and possibly waterfowl. It also found some changes in the distribution of pheasants, suggesting that related species may also be affected. Another limitation is that the surveys were conducted during the winter months. Breeding surveys may show a different picture.

That said, surveys like this are still helpful since they help narrow down the list of species we need to worry about, especially if the result holds at other times of year.

For more about wind power in a different environment, see Nick's discussion and excerpts from the DEIS for the Cape Wind project between Cape Cod and Nantucket.