Page last updated at 14:15 GMT, Wednesday, 1 October 2008 15:15 UK

Turbines 'no risk to farm birds'

Skylark (Image: RSPB)
Birds like the skylark are not disrupted by wind farms, the study shows

Wind turbines pose less of a risk to farmland birds than previously thought, a study has concluded.

A team of UK scientists said their research showed that building new wind farms on European farmland would not adversely affect bird populations.

Previous studies highlighted how turbine blades were hazardous for waterbird and bird of prey species.

The findings have been published in the British Ecological Society's (BES) Journal of Applied Ecology.

"The message on farmland specifically is that, so far, the evidence we have gathered shows that there is little effect on farmland birds," explained co-author Mark Whittingham, from Newcastle University's School of Biology.

The team carried out surveys around two wind farms located in the East Anglian fens, recording almost 3,000 birds from 23 different species.

Their data showed that the presence of the turbines did not affect the distribution of seed-eating birds, corvids or skylarks.

"This is the first evidence suggesting that the present and future location of large numbers of wind turbines on European farmland is unlikely to have detrimental effects on farmland birds," said Dr Whittingham.

"This should be welcome news for nature conservationists, wind energy companies and policy-makers."

He added that previous research had shown that turbines did have a negative impact on larger species, such as waterbirds and raptors, which are primarily found in coastal and upland regions.

"There is increasing conservation concern about the impact of wind farms on these species in these areas, so applications to build new turbines are increasingly focusing on other sites, especially lowland farmland in central and eastern England."

However, the study did reveal that the distribution pattern of common pheasants had altered as a result of the wind farms.

Dr Whittingham told BBC News that the surveys were carried out over the winter months: "We would advocate that [a study] during the breeding season needs to be done as well."

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