, Volume 16, Issue 12, pp 3345-3359
Date: 11 Nov 2006

Impact of wind turbines on birds in Zeebrugge (Belgium)

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Abstract

We studied the impact of a wind farm (line of 25 small to medium sized turbines) on birds at the eastern port breakwater in Zeebrugge, Belgium, with special attention to the nearby breeding colony of Common Tern Sterna hirundo, Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis and Little Tern Sterna albifrons. With the data of found collision fatalities under the wind turbines, and the correction factors for available search area, search efficiency and scavenging, we calculated that during the breeding seasons in 2004 and 2005, about 168 resp. 161 terns collided with the wind turbines located on the eastern port breakwater close to the breeding colony, mainly Common Terns and Sandwich Terns. The mean number of terns killed in 2004 and 2005 was 6.7 per turbine per year for the whole wind farm, and 11.2 resp. 10.8 per turbine per year for the line of 14 turbines on the sea-directed breakwater close to the breeding colony. The mean number of collision fatalities when including other species (mainly gulls) in 2004 and 2005 was 20.9 resp. 19.1 per turbine per year for the whole wind farm and 34.3 resp. 27.6 per turbine per year for 14 turbines on the sea-directed breakwater. The collision probability for Common Terns crossing the line of wind turbines amounted 0.110–0.118% for flights at rotor height and 0.007–0.030% for all flights. For Sandwich Tern this probability was 0.046–0.088% for flights at rotor height and 0.005–0.006% for all flights. The breeding terns were almost not disturbed by the wind turbines, but the relative large number of tern fatalities was determined as a significant negative impact on the breeding colony at the eastern port breakwater (additional mortality of 3.0–4.4% for Common Tern, 1.8–6.7% for Little Tern and 0.6–0.7% for Sandwich Tern). We recommend that there should be precautionary avoidance of constructing wind turbines close to any important breeding colony of terns or gulls, nor should artificial breeding sites be constructed near wind turbines, especially not within the frequent foraging flight paths.