• SongBird Survival

Number of birds killed by wind turbines drops by 72 per cent when a single blade is painted black

Painting one blade of a wind turbine makes it easier for birds to avoid a deadly encounter. A study found that painting one of the four white blades on a wind turbine black reduces the number of dead birds by 72 per cent. 

Scientists from the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research conducted a trial on the remote island of Smola comparing how many birds were killed by four painted turbine compared to their untouched neighbours. 

Scientists regularly scoured the bottom of the turbines with specially trained sniffer dogs to identify any bird carcasses. 

For the eight turbines included in the research - four painted and four left bare -  a total of 1,275 searches were conducted between 2006 and 2016. 

A total of 82 carcasses were found and statistical analysis revealed the birds which benefit the most from the pained blades are raptors and large soaring birds. 

Estimates from a 2014 study by the London School of Economics predicts there could be up to 106,000 bird deaths a year as a result of UK wind turbines. 

It also found that while the number of dead birds dropped at painted turbines, it did not trigger a spike in the number of casualties at neighbouring sites. 

Researchers suggest painting a single blade is effective due to a phenomenon called 'motion smear'. This means that, although birds often have exceptional eyesight, the white rotating blades appear invisible. Birds have extremely high-resolution eyesight in their peripheral field of vision, but their front-facing eyesight is not as good.   The study said: 'Within an assumed open airspace, birds may therefore not always perceive obstructions ahead thereby enhancing the risk of collision.'

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