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Papers on bird and bat mortality caused by wind power

Posted by Ari Jokimäki on November 9, 2011

This is a list of papers on bird and bat mortality caused by wind power. Also studies on wind power effects to other animals can be included. The list is not complete, and will most likely be updated in the future in order to make it more thorough and more representative.

Weak relationship between risk assessment studies and recorded mortality in wind farms – Ferrer et al. (2011) “Wind farms generate little or no pollution. However, one of their main adverse impacts is bird mortality through collisions with turbine rotors. Environmental impact assessment (EIA) studies have been based on observations of birds before the construction of wind farms. We analysed data from 53 EIAs in relation to the actual recorded bird mortalities at 20 fully installed wind farms to determine whether this method is accurate in predicting the risk of new wind farm installations. Bird data from EIAs were compared with bird collisions per turbine and year at functional post-constructed wind farms to identify any relationship between pre- and post-construction studies. Significant differences in birds recorded flying among the 53 proposed wind farms were found by the EIAs. Similar results were obtained when only griffon vultures Gyps fulvus and other raptors were considered. There were significant differences in indexes, including the relative index of breeding birds close to proposed locations, among the 53 proposed wind farm sites. The collision rate of birds with turbines was one of the highest ever recorded for raptors, and the griffon vulture was the most frequently killed species. Bird mortality varied among the 20 constructed wind farms. No relationship between variables predicting risk from EIAs and actual recorded mortality was found. A weak relationship was found between griffon vulture and kestrel Falco sp. mortality and the numbers of these two species crossing the area. Synthesis and applications. There was no clear relationship between predicted risk and the actual recorded bird mortality at wind farms. Risk assessment studies incorrectly assumed a linear relationship between frequency of observed birds and fatalities. Nevertheless, it is known that bird mortality in wind farms is related to physical characteristics around individual wind turbines. However, EIAs are usually conducted at the scale of the entire wind farm. The correlation between predicted mortality and actual mortality must be improved in future risk assessment studies by changing the scale of these studies to focus on the locations of proposed individual wind turbine sites and working on a species specific level.” Miguel Ferrer, Manuela de Lucas, Guyonne F. E. Janss, Eva Casado, Antonio R. Muñoz, Marc J. Bechard, Cecilia P. Calabuig, Journal of Applied Ecology, DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2664.2011.02054.x. [Full text]

Novel Scavenger Removal Trials Increase Wind Turbine—Caused Avian Fatality Estimates – Smallwood et al. (2010) “For comparing impacts of bird and bat collisions with wind turbines, investigators estimate fatalities/megawatt (MW) of rated capacity/year, based on periodic carcass searches and trials used to estimate carcasses not found due to scavenger removal and searcher error. However, scavenger trials typically place ≥10 carcasses at once within small areas already supplying scavengers with carcasses deposited by wind turbines, so scavengers may be unable to process and remove all placed carcasses. To avoid scavenger swamping, which might bias fatality estimates low, we placed only 1–5 bird carcasses at a time amongst 52 wind turbines in our 249.7-ha study area, each carcass monitored by a motion-activated camera. Scavengers removed 50 of 63 carcasses, averaging 4.45 days to the first scavenging event. By 15 days, which corresponded with most of our search intervals, scavengers removed 0% and 67% of large-bodied raptors placed in winter and summer, respectively, and 15% and 71% of small birds placed in winter and summer, respectively. By 15 days, scavengers removed 42% of large raptors as compared to 15% removed in conventional trials, and scavengers removed 62% of small birds as compared to 52% removed in conventional trials. Based on our methodology, we estimated mean annual fatalities caused by 21.9 MW of wind turbines in Vasco Caves Regional Preserve (within Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area, California, USA) were 13 red-tailed hawks (Buteo jamaicensis), 12 barn owls (Tyto alba), 18 burrowing owls (Athene cunicularia), 48 total raptors, and 99 total birds. Compared to fatality rates estimated from conventional scavenger trials, our estimates were nearly 3 times higher for red-tailed hawk and barn owl, 68% higher for all raptors, and 67% higher for all birds. We also found that deaths/gigawatt-hour of power generation declined quickly with increasing capacity factor among wind turbines, indicating collision hazard increased with greater intermittency in turbine operations. Fatality monitoring at wind turbines might improve by using scavenger removal trials free of scavenger swamping and by relating fatality rates to power output data in addition to rated capacity (i.e., turbine size). The resulting greater precision in mortality estimates will assist wildlife managers to assess wind farm impacts and to more accurately measure the effects of mitigation measures implemented to lessen those impacts.” K. Shawn Smallwood, Douglas A. Bell, Sara A. Snyder, Joseph E. Didonato, The Journal of Wildlife Management, Volume 74, Issue 5, pages 1089–1096, July 2010, DOI: 10.2193/2009-266.

Influence of Behavior on Bird Mortality in Wind Energy Developments – Smallwood et al. (2009) “As wind power generation is rapidly expanding worldwide, there is a need to understand whether and how preconstruction surveys can be used to predict impacts and to place turbines to minimize impacts to birds. Wind turbines in the 165-km2 Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area (APWRA), California, USA, cause thousands of bird fatalities annually, including hundreds of raptors. To test whether avian fatality rates related to rates of utilization and specific behaviors within the APWRA, from March 1998 to April 2000 we performed 1,959 30-minute behavior observation sessions (360° visual scans using binoculars) among 28 nonoverlapping plots varying from 23 ha to 165 ha in area and including 10–67 turbines per plot, totaling 1,165 turbines. Activity levels were highly seasonal and species specific. Only 1% of perch time was on towers of operating turbines, but 22% was on towers of turbines broken, missing, or not operating. Of those species that most often flew through the rotor zone, fatality rates were high for some (e.g., 0.357 deaths/megawatt of rated capacity [MW]/yr for red-tailed hawk [Buteo jamaicensis] and 0.522 deaths/MW/yr for American kestrel [Falco sparverius]) and low for others (e.g., 0.060 deaths/MW/yr for common raven [Corvus corax] and 0.012 deaths/MW/yr for turkey vulture [Cathartes aura]), indicating specific behaviors or visual acuity differentiated these species by susceptibility to collision. Fatality rates did not correlate with utilization rates measured among wind turbine rows or plots for any species except burrowing owl (Athene cunicularia) and mallard (Anas platyrhynchos). However, mean monthly fatality rates of red-tailed hawks increased with mean monthly utilization rates (r2 = 0.67) and especially with mean monthly flights through turbine rows (r2 = 0.92). Fatality rates increased linearly with rates of utilization (r2 = 0.99) and flights near rotor zones (r2 = 1.00) for large raptor species and with rates of perching (r2 = 0.13) and close flights (r2 = 0.77) for small non-raptor species. Fatalities could be minimized or reduced by shutting down turbines during ≥1 season or in very strong winds or by leaving sufficiently large areas within a wind farm free of wind turbines to enable safer foraging and travel by birds.” K. Shawn Smallwood, Lourdes Rugge, Michael L. Morrison, The Journal of Wildlife Management, Volume 73, Issue 7, pages 1082–1098, September 2009, DOI: 10.2193/2008-555.

Collision fatality of raptors in wind farms does not depend on raptor abundance – De Lucas et al. (2008) “The number of wind farms is increasing worldwide. Despite their purported environmental benefits, wind energy developments are not without potential adverse impacts on the environment, and the current pace and scale of development proposals, combined with a poor understanding of their impacts, is a cause for concern. Avian mortality through collision with moving rotor blades is one of the main adverse impacts of wind farms, yet long-term studies are rare. We analyse bird fatalities in relation to bird abundance, and test several factors which have been hypothesized to be associated with bird mortality. Bird abundance was compared with collision fatality records to identify species-specific death risk. Failure time analysis incorporated censored mortality data in which the time of event occurrence (collision) was not known. The analysis was used to test null hypotheses of homogeneity in avian mortality distribution according to several factors. There was no clear relationship between species mortality and species abundance, although all large-bird collision victims were raptors and griffon vulture Gyps fulvus was most frequently killed. Bird mortality and bird abundance varied markedly among seasons, but mortality was not highest in the season with highest bird abundance. Mortality rates of griffon vultures did not differ significantly between years. Bird collision probability depended on species, turbine height (taller = more victims) and elevation above sea level (higher = more victims), implicating species-specific and topographic factors in collision mortality. There was no evidence of an association between collision probability and turbine type or the position of a turbine in a row. Synthesis and applications. Bird abundance and bird mortality through collision with wind turbines were not closely related; this result challenges a frequent assumption of wind-farm assessment studies. Griffon vulture was the most frequently killed species, and species-specific flight behaviour was implicated. Vultures collided more often when uplift wind conditions were poor, such as on gentle slopes, when thermals were weak, and when turbines were taller at higher elevations. New wind installations and/or repowering of older wind farms with griffon vulture populations nearby, should avoid turbines on the top of hills with gentle slopes.” Manuela De Lucas, Guyonne F. E. Janss, D. P. Whitfield, Miguel Ferrer, Journal of Applied Ecology, Volume 45, Issue 6, pages 1695–1703, December 2008, DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2664.2008.01549.x. [Full text]

Collision Effects of Wind-power Generators and Other Obstacles on Birds – Drewitt & Langston (2008) “There is extensive literature on avian mortality due to collision with man-made structures, including wind turbines, communication masts, tall buildings and windows, power lines, and fences. Many studies describe the consequences of bird-strike rather than address the causes, and there is little data based on long-term, standardized, and systematic assessments. Despite these limitations, it is apparent that bird-strike is a significant cause of mortality. It is therefore important to understand the effects of this mortality on bird populations. The factors which determine avian collision risk are described, including location, structural attributes, such as height and the use of lighting, weather conditions, and bird morphology and behavior. The results of incidental and more systematic observations of bird-strike due to a range of structures are presented and the implications of collision mortality for bird populations, particularly those of scarce and threatened species susceptible to collisions, are discussed. Existing measures for reducing collision mortality are described, both generally and specifically for each type of structure. It is concluded that, in some circumstances, collision mortality can adversely affect bird populations, and that greater effort is needed to derive accurate estimates of mortality levels locally, regionally, and nationally to better assess impacts on avian populations. Priority areas for future work are suggested, including further development of remote technology to monitor collisions, research into the causes of bird-strike, and the design of new, effective mitigation measures.” Allan L. Drewitt, Rowena H.W. Langston, Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, Volume 1134, Issue 1, pages 233–266, June 2008, DOI: 10.1196/annals.1439.015. [Full text]

Barotrauma is a significant cause of bat fatalities at wind turbines – Baerwald et al. (2008) “Bird fatalities at some wind energy facilities around the world have been documented for decades, but the issue of bat fatalities at such facilities — primarily involving migratory species during autumn migration — has been raised relatively recently [1] and [2] . Given that echolocating bats detect moving objects better than stationary ones [3], their relatively high fatality rate is perplexing, and numerous explanations have been proposed [1]. The decompression hypothesis proposes that bats are killed by barotrauma caused by rapid air-pressure reduction near moving turbine blades [1] , [4] and [5] . Barotrauma involves tissue damage to air-containing structures caused by rapid or excessive pressure change; pulmonary barotrauma is lung damage due to expansion of air in the lungs that is not accommodated by exhalation. We report here the first evidence that barotrauma is the cause of death in a high proportion of bats found at wind energy facilities. We found that 90% of bat fatalities involved internal haemorrhaging consistent with barotrauma, and that direct contact with turbine blades only accounted for about half of the fatalities. Air pressure change at turbine blades is an undetectable hazard and helps explain high bat fatality rates. We suggest that one reason why there are fewer bird than bat fatalities is that the unique respiratory anatomy of birds is less susceptible to barotrauma than that of mammals.” Erin F. Baerwald, Genevieve H. D’Amours, Brandon J. Klug, Robert M.R. Barclay, Current Biology, Volume 18, Issue 16, 26 August 2008, Pages R695-R696, doi:10.1016/j.cub.2008.06.029. [Full text]

Bird Mortality in the Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area, California – Smallwood & Thelander (2008) “The 165-km2 Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area (APWRA) in west-central California includes 5,400 wind turbines, each rated to generate between 40 kW and 400 kW of electric power, or 580 MW total. Many birds residing or passing through the area are killed by collisions with these wind turbines. We searched for bird carcasses within 50 m of 4,074 wind turbines for periods ranging from 6 months to 4.5 years. Using mortality estimates adjusted for searcher detection and scavenger removal rates, we estimated the annual wind turbine–caused bird fatalities to number 67 (80% CI = 25–109) golden eagles (Aquila chrysaetos), 188 (80% CI = 116–259) red-tailed hawks (Buteo jamaicensis), 348 (80% CI = −49 to 749) American kestrels (Falco sparverius), 440 (80% CI = −133 to 1,013) burrowing owls (Athene cunicularia hypugaea), 1,127 (80% CI = −23 to 2,277) raptors, and 2,710 (80% CI = −6,100 to 11,520) birds. Adjusted mortality estimates were most sensitive to scavenger removal rate, which relates to the amount of time between fatality searches. New on-site studies of scavenger removal rates might warrant revising mortality estimates for some small-bodied bird species, although we cannot predict how the mortality estimates would change. Given the magnitude of our mortality estimates, regulatory agencies and the public should decide whether to enforce laws intended to protect species killed by APWRA wind turbines, and given the imprecision of our estimates, directed research is needed of sources of error and bias for use in studies of bird collisions wherever wind farms are developed. Precision of mortality estimates could be improved by deploying technology to remotely detect collisions and by making wind turbine power output data available to researchers so that the number of fatalities can be related directly to the actual power output of the wind turbine since the last fatality search.” K. Shawn Smallwood, Carl Thelander, The Journal of Wildlife Management, Volume 72, Issue 1, pages 215–223, January 2008, DOI: 10.2193/2007-032.

Patterns of Bat Fatalities at Wind Energy Facilities in North America – Arnett et al. (2008) “Wind has become one of the fastest growing sources of renewable energy worldwide, but widespread and often extensive fatalities of bats have increased concern regarding the impacts of wind energy development on bats and other wildlife. We synthesized available information on patterns of bat fatalities from a review of 21 postconstruction fatality studies conducted at 19 facilities in 5 United States regions and one Canadian province. Dominance of migratory, foliage- and tree-roosting lasiurine species (e.g., hoary bat [Lasiurus cinereus]) killed by turbines was consistent among studies. Bat fatalities, although highly variable and periodic, consistently peaked in late summer and fall, coinciding with migration of lasiurines and other species. A notable exception was documented fatalities of pregnant female Brazilian freetailed bats (Tadarida brasiliensis) in May and June at a facility in Oklahoma, USA, and female silver-haired bats (Lasionycteris noctivagans) during spring in Tennessee, USA, and Alberta, Canada. Most studies reported that fatalities were distributed randomly across turbines at a site, although the highest number of fatalities was often found near the end of turbine strings. Two studies conducted simultaneously in the same region documented similar timing of fatalities between sites, which suggests broader patterns of collisions dictated by weather, prey abundance, or other factors. None of the studies found differences in bat fatalities between turbines equipped with lighting required by the Federal Aviation Administration and turbines that were unlit. All studies that addressed relationships between bat fatalities and weather patterns found that most bats were killed on nights with low wind speed (<6 m/sec) and that fatalities increased immediately before and after passage of storm fronts. Weather patterns may be predictors of bat activity and fatality; thus, mitigation efforts that focus on these high-risk periods could reduce bat fatality substantially. We caution that estimates of bat fatality are conditioned by length of study and search interval and that they are biased in relation to how searcher efficiency, scavenger removal, and habitat differences were or were not accounted for. Our review will assist managers, biologists, and decision-makers with understanding unifying and unique patterns of bat fatality, biases, and limitations of existing efforts, and it will aid in designing future research needed to develop mitigation strategies for minimizing or eliminating bat fatality at wind facilities.” Edward B. Arnett, W. Kent Brown, Wallace P. Erickson, Jenny K. Fiedler, Brenda L. Hamilton, Travis H. Henry, Aaftab Jain, Gregory D. Johnson, Jessica Kerns, Rolf R. Koford, Charles P. Nicholson, Timothy J. O’Connell, Martin D. Piorkowski, Roger D. Tankersley JR., The Journal of Wildlife Management, Volume 72, Issue 1, pages 61–78, January 2008, DOI: 10.2193/2007-221.

Assessing Impacts of Wind-Energy Development on Nocturnally Active Birds and Bats: A Guidance Document – Kunz et al. (2007) “Our purpose is to provide researchers, consultants, decision-makers, and other stakeholders with guidance to methods and metrics for investigating nocturnally active birds and bats in relation to utility-scale wind-energy development. The primary objectives of such studies are to 1) assess potential impacts on resident and migratory species, 2) quantify fatality rates on resident and migratory populations, 3) determine the causes of bird and bat fatalities, and 4) develop, assess, and implement methods for reducing risks to bird and bat populations and their habitats. We describe methods and tools and their uses, discuss limitations, assumptions, and data interpretation, present case studies and examples, and offer suggestions for improving studies on nocturnally active birds and bats in relation to wind-energy development. We suggest best practices for research and monitoring studies using selected methods and metrics, but this is not intended as cookbook. We caution that each proposed and executed study will be different, and that decisions about which methods and metrics to use will depend upon several considerations, including study objectives, expected and realized risks to bird and bat populations, as well as budgetary and logistical considerations. Developed to complement and extend the existing National Wind Coordinating Committee document “Methods and Metrics for Assessing Impacts of Wind Energy Facilities on Wildlife” (Anderson et al. 1999), we provide information that stakeholders can use to aid in evaluating potential and actual impacts of wind power development on nocturnally active birds and bats. We hope that decision-makers will find these guidelines helpful as they assemble information needed to support the permitting process, and that the public will use this guidance document as they participate in the permitting processes. We further hope that the wind industry will find valuable guidance from this document when 1) complying with data requirements as a part of the permitting process, 2) evaluating sites for potential development, 3) assessing impacts of operational wind-energy facilities, and 4) mitigating local and cumulative impacts on nocturnally active birds and bats.” Thomas H. Kunz, Edward B. Arnett, Brian M. Cooper, Wallace P. Erickson, Ronald P. Larkin, Todd Mabee, Michael L. Morrison, M. Dale Strickland, Joseph M. Szewczak, The Journal of Wildlife Management, Volume 71, Issue 8, pages 2449–2486, November 2007, DOI: 10.2193/2007-270. [Full text]

Ecological impacts of wind energy development on bats: questions, research needs, and hypotheses – Kunz et al. (2007) “At a time of growing concern over the rising costs and long-term environmental impacts of the use of fossil fuels and nuclear energy, wind energy has become an increasingly important sector of the electrical power industry, largely because it has been promoted as being emission-free and is supported by government subsidies and tax credits. However, large numbers of bats are killed at utility-scale wind energy facilities, especially along forested ridgetops in the eastern United States. These fatalities raise important concerns about cumulative impacts of proposed wind energy development on bat populations. This paper summarizes evidence of bat fatalities at wind energy facilities in the US, makes projections of cumulative fatalities of bats in the Mid-Atlantic Highlands, identifies research needs, and proposes hypotheses to better inform researchers, developers, decision makers, and other stakeholders, and to help minimize adverse effects of wind energy development.” Thomas H. Kunz, Edward B. Arnett, Wallace P. Erickson, Alexander R. Hoar, Gregory D. Johnson, Ronald P. Larkin, M Dale Strickland, Robert W. Thresher, and Merlin D. Tuttle, 2007, Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 5: 315–324, doi:10.1890/1540-9295(2007)5[315:EIOWED]2.0.CO;2. [Full text]

Estimating Wind Turbine-Caused Bird Mortality – Smallwood (2007) “Mortality estimates are needed of birds and bats killed by wind turbines because wind power generation is rapidly expanding worldwide. A mortality estimate is based on the number of fatalities assumed caused by wind turbines and found during periodic searches, plus the estimated number not found. The 2 most commonly used estimators adjust mortality estimates by rates of searcher detection and scavenger removal of carcasses. However, searcher detection trials can be biased by the species used in the trial, the number volitionally placed for a given fatality search, and the disposition of the carcass on the ground. Scavenger removal trials can be biased by the metric representing removal rate, the number of carcasses placed at once, the duration of the trial, species used, whether carcasses were frozen, whether carcasses included injuries consistent with wind turbine collisions, season, distance from the wind turbines, and general location. I summarized searcher detection rates among reported trials, and I developed models to predict the proportion of carcasses remaining since the last fatality search. The summaries I present can be used to adjust previous and future estimates of mortality to improve comparability. I also identify research directions to better understand these and other adjustments needed to compare mortality estimates among wind farms.” K. Shawn Smallwood, The Journal of Wildlife Management, Volume 71, Issue 8, pages 2781–2791, November 2007, DOI: 10.2193/2007-006.

Migration of bats past a remote island offers clues toward the problem of bat fatalities at wind turbines – Cryan & Brown (2007) “Wind energy is rapidly becoming a viable source of alternative energy, but wind turbines are killing bats in many areas of North America. Most of the bats killed by turbines thus far have been migratory species that roost in trees throughout the year, and the highest fatality events appear to coincide with autumn migration. Hoary bats (Lasiurus cinereus) are highly migratory and one of the most frequently killed species at wind turbines. We analyzed a long-term data set to investigate how weather and moonlight influenced the occurrence of hoary bats at an island stopover point along their migration route. We then related our results to the problem of bat fatalities at wind turbines. We found that relatively low wind speeds, low moon illumination, and relatively high degrees of cloud cover were important predictors of bat arrivals and departures, and that low barometric pressure was an additional variable that helped predict arrivals. Slight differences in the conditions under which bats arrived and departed from the island suggest that hoary bats may be more likely to arrive on the island with passing storm fronts in autumn. These results also indicate that fatalities of hoary bats at wind turbines may be predictable events, that the species may be drawn to prominent landmarks that they see during migration, and that they regularly migrate over the ocean. Additional observations from this and other studies suggest that the problem of bat fatalities at wind turbines may be associated with flocking and autumn mating behaviors.” Paul M. Cryan, Adam C. Brown, Biological Conservation, Volume 139, Issues 1-2, September 2007, Pages 1-11, doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2007.05.019. [Full text]

Variation in bat and bird fatalities at wind energy facilities: assessing the effects of rotor size and tower height – Barclay et al. (2007) “Wind energy is a rapidly growing sector of the alternative energy industry in North America, and larger, more productive turbines are being installed. However, there are concerns regarding bird and bat fatalities at wind turbines. To assess the influence of turbine size on bird and bat fatalities, we analyzed data from North American wind energy facilities. Diameter of the turbine rotor did not influence the rate of bird or bat fatality. The height of the turbine tower had no effect on bird fatalities per turbine, but bat fatalities increased exponentially with tower height. This suggests that migrating bats fly at lower altitudes than nocturnally migrating birds and that newer, larger turbines are reaching that airspace. Minimizing tower height may help minimize bat fatalities. In addition, while replacing older, smaller turbines with fewer larger ones may reduce bird fatalities per megawatt, it may result in increased numbers of bat fatalities.” Robert M.R. Barclay, E.F. Baerwald, J.C. Gruver, Canadian Journal of Zoology, 2007, 85:(3) 381-387, 10.1139/Z07-011. [Full text]

Assessing the impacts of wind farms on birds – Drewitt & Langston (2006) “The potential effects of the proposed increase in wind energy developments on birds are explored using information from studies of existing wind farms. Evidence of the four main effects, collision, displacement due to disturbance, barrier effects and habitat loss, is presented and discussed. The consequences of such effects may be direct mortality or more subtle changes to condition and breeding success. The requirements for assessing the impact of future developments are summarized, including relevant environmental legislation and appropriate methods for undertaking baseline surveys and post-construction monitoring, with particular emphasis on the rapidly developing area of offshore wind farm assessments. Mitigation measures which have the potential to minimize impacts are also summarized. Finally, recent developments in the monitoring and research of wind energy impacts on birds are outlined and some areas for future work are described.” Allan L. Drewitt, Rowena H. W. Langston, Ibis, Special Issue: Wind, Fire and Water: Renewable Energy and Birds, Volume 148, Issue Supplement s1, pages 29–42, March 2006, DOI: 10.1111/j.1474-919X.2006.00516.x. [Full text]

The effect of avoidance rates on bird mortality predictions made by wind turbine collision risk models – Chamberlain et al. (2006) No abstract. Dan E. Chamberlain, Mark R. Rehfisch, Antony D. Fox, Mark. Desholm, Sarah J. Anthony, Ibis, Special Issue: Wind, Fire and Water: Renewable Energy and Birds, Volume 148, Issue Supplement s1, pages 198–202, March 2006, DOI: 10.1111/j.1474-919X.2006.00507.x. [Full text]

See also other papers in Ibis special issue.

Behavioural and environmental correlates of soaring-bird mortality at on-shore wind turbines – Barrios & Rodríguez (2004) “Wind power plants represent a risk of bird mortality, but the effects are still poorly quantified. We measured bird mortality, analysed the factors that led birds to fly close to turbines, and proposed mitigation measures at two wind farms installed in the Straits of Gibraltar, one of the most important migration bottlenecks between Europe and Africa. Bird corpses were surveyed along turbine lines and an associated power line to estimate mortality rates. The behaviour of birds observed within 250 m of turbines was also recorded as a putative indicator of risk. The effects of location, weather and flight behaviour on risk situations (passes within 5 m of turbines) were analysed using generalized linear modelling (GLM). Mortality caused by turbines was higher than that caused by the power line. Losses involved mainly resident species, mostly griffon vultures Gyps fulvus (0·15 individuals turbine−1 year−1) and common kestrels Falco tinnunculus (0·19 individuals turbine−1 year−1). Mortalities were not associated with either structural attributes of wind farms or visibility. Vulture collisions occurred in autumn–winter and were aggregated at two turbine lines where risks of collisions were greatest. The absence of thermals in winter forced vultures to use slopes for lift, the most likely mechanism influencing both their exposure to turbines and mortality. Kestrel deaths occurred during the annual peak of abundance in summer. Carcasses were concentrated in the open habitats around a single wind farm and risk may have resulted from hunting habitat preferences. Synthesis and applications. We conclude that bird vulnerability and mortality at wind power facilities reflect a combination of site-specific (wind–relief interaction), species-specific and seasonal factors. Despite the large number of migrating birds in the study area, most follow routes that are displaced from the facilities. Consequently, only a small fraction of birds on migratory flights was actually exposed to turbines. New wind installations must be preceded by detailed behavioural observation of soaring birds as well as careful mapping of migration routes.” Luis Barrios, Alejandro Rodríguez, Journal of Applied Ecology, Volume 41, Issue 1, pages 72–81, February 2004, DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2664.2004.00876.x. [Full text]

The effects of a wind farm on birds in a migration point: the Strait of Gibraltar – de Lucas et al. (2004) “The interaction between birds and wind turbines is an important factor to consider when a wind farm is constructed. A wind farm and two control areas were studied in Tarifa (Andalusia Province, southern Spain, 30STF590000–30STE610950). Variables were studied along linear transects in each area and observations of flight were also recorded from fixed points in the wind farm. The main purpose of our research was to determine the impact and the degree of flight behavioural change in birds flights resulting from a wind farm. Soaring birds can detect the presence of the turbines because they change their flight direction when they fly near the turbines and their abundance did not seem to be affected. This is also supported by the low amount of dead birds we found in the whole study period in the wind farm area. More studies will be necessary after and before the construction of wind farms to assess changes in passerine populations. Windfarms do not appear to be more detrimental to birds than other man-made structures.” Manuela de Lucas, Guyonne F.E. Janss and Miguel Ferrer, Biodiversity and Conservation, Volume 13, Number 2, 395-407, DOI: 10.1023/B:BIOC.0000006507.22024.93. [Full text]

Mortality of Bats at a Large-scale Wind Power Development at Buffalo Ridge, Minnesota – Johnson et al. (2003) “In 1994 a major wind power development project was initiated in southwest Minnesota that may eventually produce 425 megawatts (MW) of electricity. The wind plant currently consists of 3 phases that total 354 turbines capable of generating 236 MW. During a study conducted from 1996–1999 to assess effects of wind power development on wildlife, 184 bat collision fatalities were documented within the wind plant. Hoary bats (Lasiurus cinereus) and eastern red bats (L. borealis) comprised most of the fatalities. After correcting bat fatality estimates for searcher efficiency and scavenger removal rates, we estimated that the number of bat fatalities per turbine ranged from 0.07 per y at the Phase 1 wind plant to 2.04 per y at the Phase 3 wind plant. The timing of mortalities, and other factors, suggest that most mortality involves migrant rather than resident breeding bats.” Gregory D. Johnson, Wallace P. Erickson, M. Dale Strickland, Maria F. Shepherd, Douglas A. Shepherd, and Sharon A. Sarappo, The American Midland Naturalist 150(2):332-342. 2003, doi: 10.1674/0003-0031(2003)150[0332:MOBAAL]2.0.CO;2. [Full text]

Collision Mortality of Local and Migrant Birds at a Large-Scale Wind-Power Development on Buffalo Ridge, Minnesota – Johnson et al. (2002) “In 1994 Xcel Energy initiated a wind-power development project in southwestern Minnesota that will eventually produce 425 megawatts (MW) of electricity. During our study the wind farm consisted of 3 phases of development totaling 354 turbines capable of generating 236 MW, depending on wind speed. We assessed effects of the wind farm on birds from 1996 to 1999, with 55 documented collision fatalities. Recovered carcasses included 42 passerines, 5 waterbirds, 3 ducks, 3 upland game birds, 1 raptor, and 1 shorebird. Most fatalities (71%) were likely migrants through the area, 20% were species that likely were breeding in the study area, and 9% were permanent residents. Wind farm-related mortality was estimated by extrapolating the number of carcasses found at a sample of the turbines and adjusting for scavenger removal and searcher efficiency rates. We estimated total annual mortality at 72 (90% Cl = 36-108) in the Phase 1 wind farm, 324 (90% Cl = 175-473) in the Phase 2 wind farm, and 613 (90% Cl = 132-1093) in the Phase 3 wind farm. The Phase 3 wind-farm estimate was based on 1 year of data and was largely influenced by a single mortality event involving 14 passerines at 2 adjacent turbines during 1 night. Radar data indicated that approximately 3.5 million birds migrate over the wind farm each year; however, the proportion of birds flying at heights susceptible to turbine collisions is not known. Wind-power development will likely contribute to cumulative collision mortality of birds in the United States.” Gregory D. Johnson, Wallace P. Erickson, M. Dale Strickland, Maria F. Shepherd, Douglas A. Shepherd and Sharon A. Sarappo, Wildlife Society Bulletin, Vol. 30, No. 3 (Autumn, 2002), pp. 879-887.

Bird Mortality Associated with Wind Turbines at the Buffalo Ridge Wind Resource Area, Minnesota – Osborn et al. (2000) “Recent technological advances have made wind power a viable source of alternative energy production and the number of windplant facilities has increased in the United States. Construction was completed on a 73 turbine, 25 megawatt windplant on Buffalo Ridge near Lake Benton, Minnesota in Spring 1994. The number of birds killed at existing windplants in California caused concern about the potential impacts of the Buffalo Ridge facility on the avian community. From April 1994 through Dec. 1995 we searched the Buffalo Ridge windplant site for dead birds. Additionally, we evaluated search efficiency, predator scavenging rates and rate of carcass decomposition. During 20 mo of monitoring we found 12 dead birds. Collisions with wind turbines were suspected for 8 of the 12 birds. During observer efficiency trials searchers found 78.8% of carcasses. Scavengers removed 39.5% of carcasses during scavenging trials. All carcasses remained recognizable during 7 d decomposition trials. After correction for biases we estimated that approximately 36 ± 12 birds (<1 dead bird per turbine) were killed at the Buffalo Ridge windplant in 1 y. Although windplants do not appear to be more detrimental to birds than other man-made structures, proper facility siting is an important first consideration in order to avoid unnecessary fatalities.” Robert G. Osborn, Kenneth F. Higgins, Robert E. Usgaard, Charles D. Dieter, and Regg D. Neiger, The American Midland Naturalist 143(1):41-52. 2000, doi: 10.1674/0003-0031(2000)143[0041:BMAWWT]2.0.CO;2. [Full text]

Effects of Wind Turbines on Upland Nesting Birds in Conservation Reserve Program Grasslands – Leddy et al. (1999) “Grassland passerines were surveyed during summer 1995 on the Buffalo Ridge Wind Resource Area in southwestern Minnesota to determine the relative influence of wind turbines on overall densities of upland nesting birds in Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) grasslands. Birds were surveyed along 40 m fixed width transects that were placed along wind turbine strings within three CRP fields and in three CRP fields without turbines. Conservation Reserve Program grasslands without turbines and areas located 180 m from turbines supported higher densities (261.0-312.5 males/100 ha) of grassland birds than areas within 80 m of turbines (58.2-128.0 males/100 ha). Human disturbance, turbine noise, and physical movements of turbines during operation may have distrurbed nesting birds. We recommend that wind turbines be placed within cropland habitats that support lower densities of grassland passerines than those found in CRP grasslands.” Krecia L. Leddy, Kenneth F. Higgins and David E. Naugle, The Wilson Bulletin, Vol. 111, No. 1 (Mar., 1999), pp. 100-104.

Bird Flight Characteristics Near Wind Turbines in Minnesota – Osborn et al. (1998) “During 1994–1995, we saw 70 species of birds on the Buffalo Ridge Wind Resource Area. In both years bird abundance peaked in spring. Red-winged blackbirds (Agelaius phoeniceus), mallards (Anas platyrhynchos), common grackles (Quiscalus quiscula), and barn swallows (Hirundo rustica) were the species most commonly seen. Most birds (82–84%) flew above or below the height range of wind turbine blades (22–55 m). The Buffalo Ridge Wind Resource Area poses little threat to resident or migrating birds at its current operating level.” Robert G. Osborn, Charles D. Dieter, Kenneth F. Higgins, and Robert E. Usgaard, The American Midland Naturalist 139(1):29-38. 1998, doi: 10.1674/0003-0031(1998)139[0029:BFCNWT]2.0.CO;2. [Full text]

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