Do windfarms kill birds? How Australia can limit the impact on threatened species

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https://www.theguardian.com/environment/...ed-species

EXCERPT: Do windfarms kill birds? Unarguably, they have and do. The damage turbines can inflict was infamously highlighted at California’s Altamont Pass, where early industry farms were built in a migratory path. One estimate suggested it killed as many as 1,300 birds of prey a year before changes were made to reduce death rates. But is it a problem in Australia, which now has about 90 windfarms and another 25 on the way?

[...] Emma Bennett is an ecologist who has been employed by energy companies to monitor bird and bat kills at about half the windfarms in Victoria. She says while there is good global information, there is a lack of peer-reviewed data about the impact of turbines on Australian bird populations. Bennett developed a technique to estimate bird and bat kills. ... She says her results suggest that on average one or two birds are killed by each turbine each year, though there can be variation depending on the site. “We get really low counts, even lower than studies from overseas,” she says. “If you look at the global trend, bats tend to be at greater risk than birds. That’s also coming out in Australia and they get much less attention.”

After 15 years working with the industry, she believes the money energy companies spend on bird and bat monitoring – estimated at between $20m and $120m over the next decade in Victoria alone as the state installs about 1,000 more turbines – could be better directed elsewhere. She says some individual monitoring should continue, but wants industry and government to back a research fund that would look at the cumulative impact of windfarm development on threatened species. “What we want to do is, by pooling all our data and identifying the species most at risk where windfarms are built, work out how to limit risks and offset impacts before they begin,” Bennett says.

Part of the money would be spent addressing the biggest problems faced by threatened bird species that live near or pass by windfarm developments. It would go to restoring critical habitat, such as wetlands, and reducing fox and feral cat numbers. Research has found cats slay millions of birds and animals across Australia each day. Cars and powerlines also kill far more birds than wind energy, Bennett says. “If we can leverage funding from what is a small threat to address larger threats then we will get a better outcome for species at risk,” she says. (MORE - details)
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