Monday, 4 January 2016

Impact of Wind Turbines on Birds of Prey in Ireland

An Irish Buzzard

Three years ago (2011) a sea eagle died after colliding with a blade at a wind farm at Sillerthane, near Kilgarvan - Irish Times 2014.
“Shooting is not the biggest problem, poisoning has killed the most and three have flown into wind turbines - White Tailed Eagle reintroduction project manager Dr Allan Mee (2014)
Evidence for bird of prey collisions with wind turbines is small - about six or seven in the past few years, most notably from tagged eagles that have been re-introduced into Ireland from Norway. This makes it easy to track and record deaths of these birds. However, deaths of native birds of prey e.g. buzzards and falcons are more difficult to track as most, if not all, go unreported. And as any farmer will tell you, a dead bird will be picked up by a scavenger within hours.

There have only been three studies carried out into Wind Turbine bird fatalities in Ireland. They were all carried out at Lisheen Wind Farm and have been obtained under Freedom of Information.

In 2010, two sparrowhawks carcasses were found shortly after operation of the wind turbines. In 2012, a carcass of a kestrel and a buzzard were found beside a wind turbine. Other dead birds were also found such as crows, gulls and pigeons. Only two dead crows were found and no birds of prey during 2013/14 searches. This tends to show that most bird kills occur during the first couple of years of operation. However, many more studies would be required to establish enough evidence to form a proper conclusion.

The Lisheen studies conclude with a very important statement :
"most studies rely on the number of carcasses found, but this can be extremely unreliable, since it is known that carcasses are quickly removed by predators"

So we really do not know the full impact of wind turbines on birds of prey. Green advocates will argue that cars and pets kill more birds. But they fail to discern between birds of prey and common birds. Pets are incapable of killing larger and rarer birds. Cars have been known to kill large birds, in particular low flying owls, but to a much lesser extent buzzards and eagles. The Lisheen study makes this distinction clear :

Species that are long lived and have low productivity (such as many birds of prey) are at higher risk of population level impact through individual losses than short lived and highly productive bird species.
So there is no danger to gull or crow populations from wind turbines but there is a significant threat to birds of prey. A worrying development is that An Bord Pleanala don't seem to consider the threat to protected wild birds much of an issue and have even ignored their own inspectors, for example in the case of a wind farm in Roscommon which was eventually refused permission after a High Court challenge by local man, Ted Kelly:

Mr Kelly also alleged the Board failed to specify exactly why it approved permission for the developments when two of its own inspectors recommended permission be refused after appeal hearings. The inspectors concerns included the visual impact of the developments and their impact on birds and habitats of conservation. He claimed the development of 16 turbines at Croan is likely to impact on ten sites of conservation importance in south Roscommon, including three nature 2000 sites at Lough Croan, Four Road Turlough and the River Suck Callows, with particular concern expressed about the impact on Whooper Swans, Greenland White-Fronted Geese and Golden Plover. The second development would adversely impact on both bird and bat species, it was alleged.
There is also the habitat impact. For example, Carrickaduff wind farm in Donegal requires 121 hectares of deforestation. This impacts other bird species and bats.

The problem for bird of prey numbers is that many wind farms are built in high areas with high winds - the same areas most bird of prey species occupy. The Bird Societies in Ireland seem to think that wind farms and birds of prey are compatible but I see no evidence for how this could be. The wind industry certainly don't care about birds as can be seen in some of their planning applications for wind farms in areas of special interest.  It is left then to local objectors and true bird enthusiasts to defend these majestic animals from this new attack on their existence.


  1. If you leave out any dead bird or small animal it will be taken by foxes. I saw several, probably hundreds and never saw one survive between dusk and dawn.

  2. Just consider if a dead rare bird's corpse lying beside a wind turbine were instead cover in Crude oil, it would be splashed over the media in shock and horror.