Capsule Local factors can lead to strong variation in mortality rate and collision risk that obscures possible effects of turbine size in wind farms.
Aims The impact of bird collisions was studied at eight land-based wind farm sites with a total of 66 small to large turbines in order to assess the mortality rate and collision risk.
Methods Searches for collision fatalities were performed under all turbines with a minimum search interval of 14 days. Mortality rate was calculated with corrections for available search area, scavenging and search efficiency. Flight movements of birds crossing five of the wind farm sites were recorded during a minimum of four days per site. Actual collision risk was then calculated as the number of collision fatalities relative to the average surveyed flight intensity.
Results Mortality rate was 21 birds per turbine per year on average. Most fatalities were local common species (e.g. gulls) but rarer species were also found (e.g. terns, raptors and waders). Collision risk of gulls was 0.05% and 0.08% on average for birds, respectively, flying at turbine and rotor height through the wind farms (0.09% and 0.14% maximum). Large gulls had a significant higher collision risk than small gulls at rotor height. Mortality rate and collision risk were not significantly related to turbine size. The results were integrated in a widely used collision risk model to obtain information of micro-avoidance, i.e. the proportion of birds that fly through the wind farm but avoid passing through the rotor swept area of the turbines. For gulls, this micro-avoidance was 96.1% and 96.3% on average for birds, respectively, flying at turbine and rotor height through the wind farms.
Conclusion The results indicate that local factors can lead to strong variation in mortality rate and collision risk that obscures possible effects of turbine size in wind farms. However, large turbines have more installed capacity (MW), so repowering wind farms with larger but fewer wind turbines, could reduce total mortality at certain locations.