Collision fatality of raptors in wind farms does not depend on raptor abundance

Authors

  • Manuela De Lucas,

    Corresponding author
    1. Biodiversity Conservation and Applied Ecology, Estación Biológica de Doñana (CSIC), Av. Ma Luisa s/n, Pabellón de Perú, 41013 Seville, Spain; and
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Guyonne F. E. Janss,

    1. Biodiversity Conservation and Applied Ecology, Estación Biológica de Doñana (CSIC), Av. Ma Luisa s/n, Pabellón de Perú, 41013 Seville, Spain; and
    Search for more papers by this author
  • D. P. Whitfield,

    1. Natural Research Ltd., Banchory Business Centre, Burn O’Bennie Road, Banchory AB31 5ZU, UK
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Miguel Ferrer

    1. Biodiversity Conservation and Applied Ecology, Estación Biológica de Doñana (CSIC), Av. Ma Luisa s/n, Pabellón de Perú, 41013 Seville, Spain; and
    Search for more papers by this author

*Correspondence author. E-mail: manuela@ebd.csic.es

Summary

  • 1The 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.
  • 2Avian 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.
  • 3Bird 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.
  • 4There 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.
  • 5Bird 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.
  • 6Synthesis 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.

Ancillary