Dear EcoNews: Concerned Birder

Dear EcoNews,
I believe that using wind energy is of vital importance to countering climate change. A study by researchers at the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research from 2006-2016 showed that painting one turbine blade black reduces bird fatalities by 72%. Can this be done here?
– Concerned Birder


Dear Concerned Birder,
I think the short answer is “we don’t know.” It seems like a jump to conclude that this will be an effective method to reduce collisions with offshore wind projects because:

  1. There was only one study that has shown this to be an effective technique, and the focal species was a raptor (white-tailed eagles);
  2. Raptors and seabirds are very different types of birds and the response of eagles does not necessarily represent the response of seabirds to painted blades;
  3. We have some idea, for species present in both the Atlantic and Pacific, how marine birds may respond to unpainted turbines–many have been shown to avoid the area where wind turbines are located (displacement). Also, many of our marine birds do not fly at elevations as high as the turbine rotors for an offshore wind farm off Humboldt;
  4. For species unique to the Pacific, we have no data to suggest how they may respond to painted or unpainted turbines. They may avoid the area where wind turbines are located, they may sense and avoid turbine rotors and avoid collision, or they may have a risk of collision, this we don’t know.

    We are currently working with the Schatz Energy Research Center at Humboldt State University to evaluate vulnerability of seabirds to offshore wind turbines off California, for more information on offshore wind-related work from HSU, see:

– Sharon Kramer,
PhD. of H. T. Harvey & Associates, Ecological Consultants