The death of birds in wind power developments has been documented throughout the world. Even a small number of deaths could have a significant impact on a local population of breeding birds. Additionally, the death of birds raises concerns among the public about the environmental impact of wind power developments. It is imperative that new wind power developments be placed in locations of relatively low risk to birds, and that existing wind developments assess any negative impacts to birds.
The numbers of birds in an area will vary seasonally, and within a season, will vary according to weather conditions. For example, birds of prey (raptors) often congregate locally during winter, substantially raising the potential negative impact of a wind power development on bird populations. Studies of bird use at wind power developments must be conducted throughout the year and in various weather conditions.
The addition of wind turbines obviously adds an obstacle for birds. Research has shown that birds will fly into the rotating blades. However, no specific information is available on the relative risk that different types of towers (e.g., lattice or tubular), blade sizes, and rotation rates have on bird fatalities. Thus, studying birds in wind power developments will help resolve the role that equipment type has on bird behavior and deaths.
The protocol described herein is designed to assist with the placement of wind power developments, and to document bird behavior and fatalities resulting from existing wind power developments. A standardized protocol will assist with comparing data among potential and existing development locations. Furthermore, this protocol is based on standard methods being used in other studies of bird behavior. The data collected will only be useful if observers follow each method carefully.
In addition, the data collected using this protocol will likely be used by a permitting or other regulatory agency in evaluating the avian impacts at the site. As such, knowledge of how the data will be used and how it should be presented should be clarified before the field work commences.