Resolving Key Uncertainties of Seabird Flight and Avoidance Behaviours at Offshore Wind Farms
20 February 2023
This study showed that birds avoid collisions with wind farms. Research using pioneering radar and artificial intelligence technology to track bird flight at the European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre (EOWC) at Aberdeen Offshore Wind Farm Facility (AOWFL) has revealed insights into the flight behaviour of seabird species. The findings form part of a €3 million research investment by Vattenfall to learn more about offshore wind and the environment around the EOWDC, one of the largest programmes of its kind in the world. The radar tracked birds flying towards Vattenfall’s Aberdeen offshore wind farm, which then activated cameras and generated 3D flight tracks and video footage. This was used to identify the species of bird as they moved through the wind farm, as well as monitor whether they altered their flight path around the turbines. The study produced invaluable data about the flying patterns of kittiwakes, herring gulls, black-backed gulls, and gannets around the wind farm: No collisions or even narrow escapes were recorded in over 10 000 bird videos. Nearly all species of tracked seabirds avoided the zone of the turbine blades by adjusting their flight paths to fly in between the turbines. This pattern was similar for all three species of large gulls. Of those birds that came within 10 m of the zone swept by the blades, more than 96% adjusted their flight paths to avoid collision, often by flying parallel to the plane of the rotor.