Wind Power Threatens Red-Listed Bird Species, Report Warns
© AP Photo / Ashwini BhatiaAn Asian Barred Owlet sits on a wild pear tree in Dharmsala, India, Saturday, Dec. 28, 2019. This species of owl is active during the day hunting for rodents near cultivated fields.
© AP Photo / Ashwini Bhatia
While birds killed directly by spinning blades admittedly represent only a fraction of casualties, some species, including larger birds of prey, are disproportionately affected and more vulnerable. Furthermore, concern is growing that the death rate may spike as habitats and migration routes are increasingly threatened amid rampant development.
Wind power may be a threat to protected bird species, a report from Norway’s Nord University has found.
Among others, the highly endangered eagle owl, one of the country’s rarest species, appeared to be in drastic decline in areas which have rolled out wind power.
The once-numerous eagle owl, which happens to be Europe’s largest at up 4 kilograms and a wingspan of up to 1.8 meters, was red-listed in 1971 and is seen as a national treasure in Norway.
In connection with Norway’s plans for wind power expansion, the developers were required to probe the effect of potential development on several species. A total of 48 sites were surveyed in 2014 and subsequently in 2020 to compare the data. The conclusion was that the construction phase alone was “highly negative” for birds.
In areas near wind parks, the population of the eagle owl has been reduced by over 40 percent, which researchers described as “enormous amount.” Eagle owls are highly territorial and don’t migrate readily.
The researchers said that central Norway was particularly badly hit, yet called the situation there “symptomatic for the whole country.”
Even more remarkable is that this drop occurred despite construction companies going to great lengths to protect the red-listed birds. Among others, development was halted during critical nesting periods and helicopter flights were avoided.
15 November 2022, 05:09 GMT
Ever since the first commercial wind turbines appeared in the 1980s, there has been criticism of their impact on the environment, including damage to the landscape and harm to wildlife. One standing criticism of wind power is the number of birds killed by spinning blades. Indeed, the American Bird Conservancy modeled the death rate, concluding that each year, nearly 1.2 million birds are killed by wind turbines in the US alone. While this represents only a fraction of birds killed by collision with buildings or cats, some of the species are disproportionately affected. For instance, larger birds of prey, which are fewer in an ecosystem, are more likely to fly into blades and thus more vulnerable.
Furthermore, there is growing concern among conservation groups that the rampant development of wind farms to achieve the “Green Switch” might see the death rate climb dramatically, as habitats and migration routes are increasingly threatened.