Hen Harrier killed after wind turbine collision

Published by Shamim Malekmian on

July 16th, 2019

A Hen Harrier, one of Ireland’s most threatened birds of prey, was killed on a wind farm in Co Kerry in April, according to the Irish Raptor Study Group (IRSG).

The rare female Hen Harrier was killed after colliding with a wind turbine near Knockrour East, according to the conservation group.

The IRSG said that it was notified about the incident through a third party working in the energy consultancy sector, with the National Parks and Wildlife Services (NPWS) later confirming the case.  

The group urged Minister for Heritage Josepha Madigan TD to bolster what it has described as “post wind farm construction monitoring” measures as well as planning procedures to prevent similar accidents.

“The Group urges Minister Madigan to impose an immediate moratorium on any further approvals of wind farms in protected areas and important breeding areas for Hen Harrier until a full review is carried out and the Hen Harrier Threat Response Plan is published,” it said.

The population of Hen Harriers has experienced a precipitous decline in recent years, with the IRSG warning that there may be less than 100 breeding pairs of the species currently left in the country.

Lorcan O’Toole, IRSG’s chairperson, said that poorly planned wind farm developments are claiming the lives of Ireland’s endangered birds of prey.

“There is a serious concern that inappropriately placed and planned wind farm developments can have significant impacts on Raptor populations due to loss of habitat, displacement from breeding areas and increased mortality,” he said.

Mr O’Toole said that, despite raising the issue with Ms Madigan and An Bord Pleanála, “wind farms in important breeding areas for Hen Harriers continue to get approval for planning”.

wind turbines birds bats
Photo: pxhere

In recent months, planning permission for two wind farms in Barna in Co Kerry and Meenbog in Co Donegal were granted despite conservation groups warnings of their adjacency to earmarked breeding areas for Hen Harriers.

Counties Cork, Kerry, and Donegal have the highest number of wind farms in the country with over 300 turbines erected in designated areas in Co Kerry alone. 

Expressing concern about the steep decline in the number of the species, Fintan Kelly of BirdWatch Ireland told The Green News that the species remains worryingly endangered. “The Hen Harrier is one of Ireland’s most threatened birds of prey.

“BirdWatch Ireland has been engaging with the Government since 2015 on a threat response plan to save the species,” he said, urging the State to protect the species from preventable death by minimising the adverse impact of the renewable energy sector.

However, he said, efforts to date has yielded no results. “We are still waiting on the Government to take the necessary steps to address wind energy and forestry which are recognised as two of the leading drivers of the species decline.”

A recent study conducted by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) has identified birds and bats as significantly vulnerable to collision with wind turbines, with birds of prey being pinpointed as the most susceptible among bird species.

Previous studies had linked the mortality rate from wind turbine collision in birds of prey to their specific visual adaptation for hunting which prompts them to focus on the ground, ignoring what lies directly in front of them.

Several international studies on human-related bird deaths, however, have concluded that the likes of fossil-fuel power stations, road collisions and cats pose a greater threat to avian wildlife than wind energy.

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Shamim Malekmian

Shamim is a Senior Reporter at The Green News and a contributing writer to the Irish Examiner, Cork Evening Echo and the Dublin Inquirer.