Migratory birds and wind farms

Investigations of bird migration in the German Bight – how great is the potential conflict with offshore wind farms?

Avitec Research GbR

To date, the Federal Maritime and Hydrographic Agency (BSH) has issued approval for over twenty wind farms in the German Bight, outside the 12 nautical mile zone. Although few offshore wind turbines have been brought into service as yet, a number of potential stages of expansion might see the number of wind turbines in the German Bight rise to several thousand.

At the same time, the southern region of the North Sea is a pivotal point in the East Atlantic migration path of Palearctic birds. In this location, bird migration occurs mainly at night, under conditions of reduced visibility.

In this connection, a number of research projects funded by the Federal Environment Ministry have addressed the questions of whether the construction and operation of offshore wind farms might have negative impacts upon migratory birds during their flight over the German Bight: will there be collisions or barrier effects?

The near-comprehensive recording of bird migration, which has been undertaken on FINO1 since the autumn of 2003 and on FINO3 since the summer of 2009 using technical recording methods has provided thoroughly valuable findings on bird migration in the German Bight region. A combination of a variety of remote detection methods (various radar, thermal imaging, video and audio systems) allows the computer-assisted recording of bird migration round the clock and all year round. For the well-founded appraisal and consideration of these issues, the daily and seasonal presence of birds is recorded, including the composition of bird populations by species, individual numbers, height distribution and direction of migration, together with details of general migratory behaviour under specific weather conditions. It is also essential to undertake the documentation of bird behaviour, including evasive movements in response to man-made structures and reactions to the night-time lighting of these structures, together with the detailed recording of bird deaths on FINO1.

The following devices have been installed for the recording of these data:

The object of investigations is the realistic appraisal of potential conflicts between offshore wind farms and birds which migrate over the sea, in order to allow the development of avoidance or control measures, such as arrangements for the shutdown of turbines on nights of mass migration, or the potential use of the most bird-friendly safety lighting.

To the results