Birds ‘astonishingly good’ at dodging wind mills, new study shows
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Birds ‘astonishingly good’ at dodging wind mills, new study shows

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A new Danish study sheds new light on the impact of wind farms on bird populations, dispelling claims that turbines pose a deadly threat to wildlife after concluding birds were “astonishingly good” at avoiding them.

The conclusions of the study, commissioned by state-owned Swedish energy firm Vattenfall, found that birds are “far better at avoiding turbine blades than previously thought,” offering improved perspectives for the cohabitation of windfarms and wildlife.

Carried out on a Vattenfall wind farm located near to the EU-protected Vejlerne bird sanctuary in northern Denmark, the study found that “over 99% of pink-footed geese and cranes that fly in the area were able to avoid the wind turbine blades.”

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The Vejlerne sanctuary is “Denmark’s most important breeding site for waterbirds and marsh birds,” according to a Danish wildlife association.

“Each day, thousands of birds leave their roosting areas in Vejlerne and fly out to the nearby fields to find food, with many passing the wind farm,” the energy company wrote in a statement.

The study was sponsored by the Swedish company in efforts to provide evidence that the wind farm complies with environmental standards regarding the specified bird species.

Previous studies on the impact of the wind energy sector on birdlife have also downplayed wind turbine’s portrayal as deadly for the animals.

In September, a study in Norway found that painting one of the blades in turbines black could reduce deadly collisions with birds by up to 72%.

A 2009 study found that wind farms and nuclear power plants caused at most 0.4 bird fatalities per gigawatt-hour (GWh) of electricity produced, compared to 5.2 bird deaths/GWh caused by fossil-fuel power plants.

While the company said that the study provided the most “comprehensive” results yet on the impact of windmills on crane and geese populations in Denmark, a Belgian biologist warned against generalising its results to other environments or bird species.

“Some species avoid windmills better than others,” Joris Everaert of Flanders’ natural research centre,  Instituut voor Natuur- en Bosonderzoek, told De Morgen.

“We have known for some time that small red geese and cranes avoid windmills well and on time, but seagulls not so much,” he said. “Placing a new wind farm in an area where many birds live remains a risk.”

The Danish study was carried out over two years in cooperation with Danish ornithologists and has been peer-reviewed. It is set for publication in Danish scientific journal DOF BirdLife.

Gabriela Galindo
The Brussels Times