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Wind Farms Threaten Breeding Success Of White-Tailed Eagle, New Study Shows

Oct 19, 2015 05:24 PM EDT
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Wind farms are sprouting up around the world and while the jury is still out whether they are as effective as oil, one thing that is certain is that the large turbines are threatening bird populations such as the white-tailed eagle, a new study revealed.

White-tailed eagles (Haliaeetus albicilla) are large raptors that can have a wingspan of over eight feet. They generally don't breed until they are five or six years old, which leads to a lower reproductive rate, compared to smaller, shorter-lived birds. There are very small populations of these eagles living in highlands and islands along the west coast of Scotland.  

Researchers from the University of Turku recently took a closer look at how populations of white-tail eagles may be affected when living in close proximity to wind farms, according to a news release. Using a capture-mark-recapture method, researchers discovered that the survival of post-fledgings was not impacted by wind turbines. However, adult eagles were particularly vulnerable, suggesting that they are at a higher risk of mortality during their breeding years, causing already scarce populations to plummet. 

"As wind farms are expected to expand in the future, we need to be aware of their potential negative effects on various species," Fabio Balotari-Chiebao, lead author of the study, said in the release. "The implementation of preventive measures aimed at the protection of species that are vulnerable to turbine-related incidents will allow the use of this energy source without compromising the local biodiversity."

This study sheds light on the importance of building appropriately sited wind farms and the need to protect vulnerable avian populations. Their findings were recently published in the journal Animal Conservation

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