Wind Turbines Won’t Harm Birds in the Fens

It seems to be a glaringly obvious concern – will the installation of additional wind farms in lowland agricultural areas in the UK cause birds to abandon the area? They are, after all, very noisy, large and full of movement. New research suggests that the answer to this all-important question is no.

A new scheme to put up additional wind turbines in agricultural areas to meet renewable energy targets seems to be safe. The Journal of Applied Ecology set about studying the impact that existing turbines had on wind farms in the Fens and discovered that approximately 3 000 birds from as many as 33 different species were living quite comfortably within 750 meters of the turbines at both of the farms under observation. Despite concerns that the 100-meter high turbines might disturb birds due to noise and the possibility of collision, it seems that the birds have adjusted to these turbines without so much as batting an eye-lid. They certainly seemed to have no impact on the distribution of a variety of birds, including skylarks, game birds, crows and seed-eaters. Pretty much the only birds that seemed to have been disturbed by the environmentally-friendly power source were common pheasants, which are not very manoeuvrable. In addition to this discovery, it was found that five red-listed species were living comfortably around the turbines, namely the tree sparrow, the corn bunting, the yellowhammer, the skylark and the common reed bunting.

According to Dr Mark Whittingham of Newcastle University, previous studies of this sort had focused mainly on geese, waders and birds of prey – species which are mainly found in coastal and upland areas. The new research shows that the wind tunnels are unlikely to have a very detrimental effect on farmland birds. This is good news for researchers since it likely means that the UK can not only meet renewable energy targets, but that schemes to boost the wildlife on farmlands in the area will not be at risk. While the research did not consider all the variables, it does seem that for the most part, the turbines just don’t really affect small farmland birds. In fact, they pose much more of a threat to bats, which often haemorrhage when they are exposed to the drop in pressure near the blades. This hopefully wont pose too much of a problem if wind farms are positioned in areas that are not too near to places with high concentrations of bats.