Wind turbines can have both positive and negative environmental effects, and these impacts are likely to vary according to the local context. This report is the first of its kind for South Africa – it summarises the results of monitoring birds at eight wind farms. Monitoring was largely conducted according to standard procedures outlined in BirdLife South Africa and the Endangered Wildlife Trust’s Best Practice Guidelines for assessing and monitoring the impact of wind-energy facilities on birds in southern Africa (Best Practice Guidelines). Post-construction phase monitoring was conducted for a minimum of one year, and for no more than two years at all wind farms in the study. No clear evidence for disturbance or displacement was found. However, there were a number of confounding factors – a metaanalysis of the raw data and further research on some species would be of value. The average estimated fatality rate at the wind farms (accounting for detection rates and scavenger removal) ranged from 2.06 to 8.95 birds per turbine per year. The mean fatality rate was 4.1 birds per turbine per year. This places South Africa within the range of fatality rates that have been reported for North America and Europe. The number of fatalities recorded decreased in the winter months, coinciding with the period where lower bird activity levels can be expected. Diurnal raptors accounted for most fatalities (36%), followed by songbirds (26%). Threatened species affected by collisions with wind turbines included Blue Crane (three), Verreaux’s Eagle (five), Martial Eagle (two) and Black Harrier (five). A large number of Jackal Buzzard fatalities (24) also were reported. This species is not threatened, but it is endemic to southern Africa. No fatalities were reported for a number of species predicted to be vulnerable to the impacts of wind energy; however, this review is based on data from a limited number of wind farms and a short period of monitoring, and a precautionary approach remains warranted when assessing and mitigating impacts for these species.
Although preliminary, the results of this study point to a number of potential research questions. Recommendations are also made which could help build our understanding around how to minimise the negative effects of wind energy on birds in South Africa.