Wind farm causes eagle deaths
Wind turbines have caused a number of deaths of Europe's largest eagle species, on isolated islands off the Norwegian coast.
The discovery of four dead White-tailed Eagles, and the failure of almost 30 others to return to nesting sites within the wind farm area, has increased fears that wind farms elsewhere could take a similar toll on native and migrating wild birds.
The White-tailed Eagle Haliaeetus albicilla is found in significant numbers on Smøla, a set of islands about ten kilometres off the north-west Norwegian coast. The island is listed by BirdLife as an Important Bird Area (IBA) because it holds one of the highest breeding densities of the species in the world.
The four dead birds were found between August and December 2005. Two had been sliced in half, apparently by a turbine blade. Post mortems blamed multiple trauma for the birds' deaths, caused by a heavy blow. Much of the wind park is remote and rarely visited and it is possible that other deaths have gone undetected.
The 68-turbine Smøla wind farm was built between 2001 and 2005. The Norwegian government ignored advice based on an environmental assessment, warning against the development because of the danger it posed to White-tailed Eagles. BirdLife took the case to the Bern Convention but the decision was not overturned.
Research by NOF-BirdLife Norway’s National White-tailed Eagle project, the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA) and the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK), will now be stepped-up to include regular checks for casualties throughout the wind park, and monitoring of this spring's breeding activity.
Conservationists are yet to draw firm conclusions from their initial monitoring because breeding numbers of eagles often vary and in 2004 and 2005, construction activity for the second part of the wind park was especially intense.
"Breeding results on Smøla have been strikingly poor compared with the 30 years before the wind farm was built, both on the site itself and the remainder of the island." —Alv Ottar Folkestad, NOF (BirdLife in Norway)
Alv Ottar Folkestad, project leader of NOF’s National White tailed Eagle project for more than 30 years said, "We are only half way through the research, yet despite their site-faithfulness, we are not confident that White-tailed Eagles will adapt to the turbines and return to the wind park area. As older birds die, we do not know if new birds will occupy nest sites within the wind farm."
BirdLife supports the generation of wind and other renewable energies to help tackle climate change but these interim research results have underlined the dangers of wind parks placed near sites that birds instinctively seek.