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Can wind turbines and migrating birds coexist?

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In the race to avoid runaway climate change, two renewable energy technologies are being pushed as the solution to powering human societies: wind and solar. But for many years, wind turbines have been on a collision course with wildlife conservation. Birds and other flying animals risk death by impact with the rotor blades of turbines, raising questions about the feasibility of wind as a cornerstone of a global clean energy policy. Now, a pair of animal tracking studies from the Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior and the University of East Anglia, UK, has provided detailed GPS data on flight behavior of birds that are susceptible to collision with energy infrastructure. The first, a large-scale study of 1,454 birds from 27 species, has identified hotspots in Europe where birds are particularly at risk from wind turbines and power lines. The second zoomed in on how birds behave when flying near turbines, revealing that individuals will actively avoid turbines if they are within one kilometer. By tracking the movement of birds with high precision GPS devices, both studies provide the detailed biological data needed to expand renewable energy infrastructure with minimal impacts to wildlife.

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