Bird brains

Our feathered friends can breathe a sigh of relief. Unless of course they plan to fly anywhere.

A new study published in the Journal of Applied Ecology shows that wind turbines don’t scare away farmland bird populations.

The research is being touted as proof that wind farms are safe for birds, and that wind should now be adopted as a major source of renewable energy in Europe. But that overgeneralization of the study’s findings is dangerous.

Birds

The fact that birds aren’t avoiding turbines could be a bad sign. Wouldn’t avoiding wind farms be a sign that evolutionary instincts are kicking in to protect them from turbine blades that can move at 180 miles per hour?

And could this mean the pheasant is the smartest of all the birds studied? Of the 23 types of birds included, pheasants were the only birds found to change their living patterns because of turbines.

The study doesn’t take into account the threat to bird populations of collisions with the turbines. While that wasn’t the study’s intent, it’s a factor that can’t be forgotten. One suggestion has been to create ‘no fly’ zones for birds around the turbines.

Any discussion of wind farm safety must include recent findings of the harmful impact of turbines on bats, who can die from internal hemorrhaging consistent with trauma from the sudden drop in air pressure at turbine blades.

So while the study made an important point, the scope was too small to make any definitive statements that clear the path for wind farms.