Bird numbers plummet in windfarm area

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New RSPB research finds an 80% drop in golden plover numbers following the construction of a windfarm in the north of Scotland

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15th April 2016 by Susan Smith 0 Comments

A new study has shown a huge reduction in the number of breeding birds following the construction of turbines at a windfarm in the north of Scotland.

RSPB Scotland scientists, funded by energy firm SSE, studied golden plovers at the Gordonbush wind farm in Sutherland for five years, before, during and after construction.

The study reports that numbers of the plover, which is protected under the European Birds Directive, dropped by 80% within the windfarm area during the first two years of operation, with these declines being markedly greater than in areas surrounding the windfarm that were studied over the same period.

This important study shows that bird numbers can be seriously affected by badly sited wind farms in more ways than simply colliding with turbine blades

Lead researcher Dr Alex Sansom said: "Golden plovers breed in open landscapes and it is likely that the presence of wind turbines in these areas leads to birds avoiding areas around the turbines. This study shows that such displacement may cause large declines in bird numbers within windfarms. It will be important to examine whether these effects are maintained over the longer term at this site, and we should also use these detailed studies to examine the effects of windfarms on other bird species."

Aedan Smith, head of planning and development for RSPB Scotland, said: "We desperately need more renewable energy projects including windfarms to help tackle the causes of climate change, which is harming wildlife in Scotland and across the world. However, it is vital that windfarms, like any development, are sited to avoid harming our most important places for wildlife. 

"Fortunately, the vast majority of windfarms pose no significant risk to our wildlife. This important study shows that bird numbers can be seriously affected by badly sited windfarms in more ways than simply colliding with turbine blades, and highlights the importance of getting things right at the outset, so that impacts can be avoided."

Kenna Chisholm, the charity’s conservation manager for North Scotland, said: "RSPB Scotland objected to this project when it was first proposed, stating that it was not a suitable site for a wind farm. The new research suggests that the site is unlikely to be suitable for repowering when the current wind farm reaches the end of its life."