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Brussels refuses to save LEWIS, SKYE, and THE SCOTTISH EAGLES

With thousands of wind farms in the EU, never before had so much natural and cultural heritage, so much tourism potential, and so much wildlife habitat been damaged in so little time. Refusing to enforce their own environmental legislations, European governments are guilty of eco-vandalism by default - and this includes the European Commission. Since human populations are being harmed in the process, the words "ecological terrorism" also apply. Across Europe, citizens numbering several hundred thousands have formed associations to fight wind farm projects that would ruin their lives. Nearly 400 of these organisations have united into a European platform : www.epaw.org . But like the genuine conservationists who try and defend European wildlife against the wind farm invasion, their voices are being ignored.

Like the canary in the mine, eagles reflect the health of our wild lands. Sadly, their habitat is now being spiked with giant wind turbines that kill them. Just as deadly, thousands of kilometres of new high tension lines are being built to link the wind farms to the national grids. Trashing in this manner our ultimate wildlife strongholds, including the ecologically critical Scottish islands, European authorities actually do the opposite of what they profess, and destroy what they have been entrusted to protect. They are also giving the wrong signal to the rest of the world : how long before Tanzania lines up solar panels in the Serengeti ?

It´s not just a matter of preserving biodiversity : it´s also about preserving our quality of life and our tourism potential. Do we want Europe to become one huge, depressing industrial landscape from Lapland to Gibraltar ?


The European Commission tell us they can´t do anything about it. We are of the opinion that they can, but won´t. So let the public be judge : here is the presentation of our evidence about how wind farms will cause the extinction of the eagles, notably in Scotland. We give examples of where the current EU legislation is being violated, and put forward some recommendations for saving the species.

We have petitioned Brussels before on this matter, but our latest complaint below incorporates new evidence and novel ideas.


Save the Eagles International wish to denounce, on the basis of new scientific findings, the deleterious wind farm policies of Scotland, Spain, and other EU countries as regards the wild lands that are key to the conservation of biodiversity in Europe. The case of Scotland is most urgent, as highly destructive wind farms are about to be built in the Hebrides islands and other ill-chosen locations, leading to the extinction of the eagles in the UK.

Note : please report any link turned defective to : save.the.eagles@gmail.com

THE CASE OF SCOTLAND (which holds 99% of the UK eagle population)

To appease critics, Scottish officials have announced that new Special Protection Areas (SPAs) would be designated to provide additional havens for the eagles. The habitat of the large raptors in Scotland has indeed become increasingly dangerous, with lethal wind turbines appearing in places where they normally fly. This new hazard coming on top of traditional ones, like poison, shooting, or power lines, we have reached a tipping point : the survival of the great birds in the UK is no longer assured.

The creation of new SPAs is always welcome, but as we shall demonstrate in this paper, they won´t save the eagles. The incoherent wind farm policy of the Scottish authorities will cause too many of the iconic birds to be killed. In fact, a number of eagles have already died or "disappeared" in Scotland because of wind power deployment in the wrong places. Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), the wind industry, and the many ornithologists that seek their funding deny this. But the evidence is there, some of it found in correspondence from SNH themselves (1). Several cases have come to our knowledge, but undoubtedly there have been many more. Contrary to Germany, where at least some wind farm casualties have been recorded and published, in Scotland the matter is being hushed up, and very little information transpires from the tight lips of the stakeholders.

(imagen omitida)

Above picture (courtesy of Dr Smallwood) : golden eagle wounded by a wind turbine at Altamont Pass, California. The bird climbed the hill on foot, looking for safety. Its injury was such that it had to be euthanised. This picture illustrates the "crippling bias" that Dr Smallwood mentions in his latest study ( see ANNEX at the end ). It is one of the biases that cause under-reporting of bird mortality at wind farms, as eventual searches for dead birds are normally limited to the immediate vicinity around the turbines.

Wind turbine mortality in Scotland will sharply increase when the numerous projects in the pipeline come on stream. New power lines linking hundreds of wind farms to the grid will also take a heavy toll. A map of about 250 wind farm locations, present or future, has recently been released by SNH. More projects may be coming later, but this map already reveals the extent of the threat ---> LINK to the SNH map


In the UK, both the Golden Eagle (GE) and the White-Tailed Eagle (Sea Eagle) have their critical strongholds in the Hebrides islands, which lie alongside the west coast of Scotland. These include the Outer Hebrides, which are clearly distinguishable from the mainland (see the SNH map above), and the Inner Hebrides, whose two largest islands are very close to the coast or attached to it by a bridge (the isles of Mull and Skye, respectively).

As shown on the map, there are a number of wind farm projects affecting the Outer Hebrides ( Pairc Estate, Feiriosbhal, Eishken, etc. on the Isle of Lewis ) as well as the Inner Hebrides ( Edinbane and Ben Aketil on the Isle of Skye ). All of them are extremely harmful projects in that the Hebrides harbour the highest concentration of eagles in Scotland (2). The islands are also critically important because they naturally "export" young eagles to the mainland (3). They are also of paramount importance to many species of migrating birds.

Bird societies all over the world recommend not putting wind turbines in areas with high concentrations of protected birds, or in migration hot spots. But obviously the Scottish authorities have little respect for biodiversity, let alone landscapes, tourism potential, and wind farm neighbours.

The European Commission is also at fault, for we have brought the matter to their attention in the past. European legislation is being violated : the original Wild Birds and Habitats Directives, the updated one of Nov. 30th 2009, and Directive 2001/42/EC. For example, wind turbines will be erected within a Special Protection Area ( Lewis Peatlands, where the Pentland Road wind farm is to be built shortly ), and others will invade the Important Bird Area IBA UK224 (Eishken), where many eagles will be killed. Yet there are numerous alternative locations outside these designated protected areas. And the Eishken estate should have been made into an SPA, as there are none to protect the Sea Eagle in Scotland : IBA UK224 is arguably the most suitable place for such an SPA, but the soon-to-be-built wind farm will turn this haven into a death trap for the majestic birds.

Another violation : environmental impact assessments are inadequate. They are biased, misleading, and give science a bad name. They are written by optimist-by-trade consultants hired by the developers, who keep re-hiring the most complaisant over and over again. It would be no different to ask Exxon to evaluate the damage done by the Exxon Valdez. And no assessment of the cumulative effect that hundreds of wind farms will have on Scotland´s listed bird populations was ever done, contrary to EU legislation (Directive 2001/42/EC).

Worse still : the Scottish authorities have been abetting developers in the production of doctored environmental assessments. It happened for example in connection with the planning application for the Edinbane wind farm project. We consider this to be another violation of European legislation, for obviously the manipulated assessment is inappropriate : it is tainted, and it affects a Special Protection Area ( the Cuillins SPA). Following are the details.


In 2004, the SNH collision model that was being used to predict eagle mortality at Scottish wind farms was applying an "avoidance rate" of 95%. Running this model for the Edinbane project with eagle data from the consultant´s survey, the result was a prediction of 5.5 golden eagle collisions yearly, i.e. 137 over the life of the "farm" (25 years). That was credible, considering that young golden eagles from the nearby Cuillins SPA and elsewhere are naturally attracted to the Edinbane hills, and can be seen there with a frequency of about one sighting per hour ( original observations recorded by the consultant ).

The Scottish authorities, keen to see the project approved, had a problem with this : such a high mortality would be unacceptable, for golden eagles are on the decline in the UK and may arguably become extinct with so many wind farms to be built in their habitat. Of more immediate concern to SNH, 137 deaths would put in jeopardy the integrity of the nearby Cuillins SPA as regards its eagle population, and someone could complain about this to the European Commission, forcing it to take the matter to the European Court of Justice. Heavy fines to the Scottish government could ensue.
As stated in the approval of 2007 :
"8.20 - While the (Edinbane) site does not form part of a nationally or internationally designated or proposed site, the Cuillins Special Protection Area (SPA), which is designated for its golden eagle interest, lies nearby. Where development could have a significant effect on a European site, even where it does not lie within that site, the Council must consider the implications for the conservation interest for which the area is designated before agreeing to the proposals. While the development will not affect the eight resident pairs of golden eagles, or the habitat, within the SPA the integrity of the SPA may be adversely affected if there are insufficient young golden eagles in the Skye population to replace any breeding adults within the SPA that cease to breed or die naturally. The risk of collision to young golden eagles outwith the SPA is therefore important to the favourable conservation status of the European site." (12)

So what did SNH do ?
- They manipulated the model, increasing the avoidance rate to 98%. This had the effect of reducing the predicted mortality from 137 to 27 eagles (1.1 yearly). They also let it be known that, for Edinbane to be approved, the developer´s mortality prediction should not exceed 15 eagles ( 0.6 per year ), so that the Cuillins SPA would not be harmed. That was tantamount to showing the fox how to get into the hen house : knowing exactly what they had to predict, AMEC Wind Energy calculated how many wind turbines had to be eliminated from the project in order to reduce the collision prediction further from of 27 to 15. They took out 9 turbines, predicted 15 eagle deaths as expected, and the project was approved - in spite of the RSPB maintaining their (little-publicised) objection. AMEC would still be making money with the generous subventions. And who knows if they wouldn´t be able to expand the wind farm later : extensions are easier to get approved than original applications ( opponents have given up the fight by then ).

All this is documented and constitutes evidence of collusion between the examiner (SNH) and the examinee (AMEC), which will result in harm to a designated Special Protection Area and compromise the survival of the Golden Eagle in the UK. Indeed, adjoining Edinbane is the wind farm of Ben Aketil ( in construction ) : the collision predictions for the 2 wind farms jointly total 22 dead golden eagles, which will have a higher impact on the Cuillins SPA. But in real life, up to 200 eagles may die at Edinbane and Ben Aketil, for the 98% avoidance rate is not realistic and results from doctoring (5).

The Scottish administration is guilty, and the European Commission condones the scandalous manipulation by refusing to take the matter to the European Court of Justice. This is but one example of how the books are being cooked in Scotland and the EU.

As we shall see in the following chapter "HOW THE MANIPULATION WORKS", the avoidance rate lends itself to doctoring, and is totally unreliable. As for the reduction in turbine numbers from 27 to 18, in real life that will hardly cut down on mortality : this was evidenced at the Altamont Pass wind farm in California. The reason is simple : as shown by studies conducted by Dr. Smallwood et al. ( ANNEX - section A - and prior research by the same biologist ), eagles and other raptors are attracted to wind turbines. Thus, if some turbines are eliminated, the birds will fly closer to those remaining. To wit : in Sweden, an eagle was killed by a wind farm of only 3 turbines ( details available upon request ).

Another irregularity : in another SNH model, the one used to calculate the impact of Edinbane on the Cuillins SPA, erroneous data was fed in. Here is a quote about the said model and the golden eagle reproduction rate on the Isle of Skye : " Productivity in 2006 was 0.35 chicks per pair. The modelling has used a productivity value of 0.5. " (12)

SNH justify their deliberate error by saying that productivity on Skye used to be closer to 0.5, and that the decline in the last few years may not be lasting (12). This argumentation is anything but convincing, and the RSPB maintained their objection to the project, mentioning the golden eagle´s declining population ( see quote further below ).

The premeditated collateral killing of eagles is, arguably, a wildlife crime. It is one thing to kill protected birds accidentally while driving a car : it is another to erect giant bird chopping machines in their last strongholds ( more so when there are alternative locations elsewhere ). In this light, the collusion between SNH and developers could make the quango an "accomplice" in committing wildlife crimes ( eagle mortality predictions were also manipulated for other projects ). It´s a situation where the game warden is helping the poacher lay his traps. An eagle SPA being involved at Edinbane, at Ben Aketil, at Pentland Road etc. it is the duty of the European Commission to step in and stop the projects, immediately ( construction work has or is about to start ). The EC has enough clout to do it, and threats of legal action resulting in heavy fines are an efficient deterrent.

EC public officers in charge of protecting European biodiversity should not condone the unlawful, hardly "accidental" (because predicted), yet unlimited take of protected wildlife by wind farm operators. Unlimited it is, for biased, doctored predictions are worthless.

By the way, sea eagles are also frequently seen on the Edinbane hills, but somehow the developer cooked up an extremely low collision prediction. Officially the Cuillins SPA is not concerned, having no "sea eagle interest". SNH did not object regarding the sea eagles, but the RSPB did.


The avoidance factor is one of the key parameters used in the SNH collision model. It is unreliable, as revealed by the British Trust for Ornithology. - In their report "Wind Farm Collision Risk Model and its Application" (April 2005) we read : "We cannot therefore recommend the use of the SNH model without further research into avoidance rates”.

The RSPB concurred in their letter of 19 June 2006 about the Edinbane project : “Over the course of the application the model has been run a considerable number of times resulting in a wide range of predicted collision rates. This emphasises the caution required in interpreting the results from the model." But, unfortunately for the eagles and for the Cuillins SPA, the RSPB objection to Edinbane has been equivocal from the start, asking for more studies instead of opposing the project unconditionally. Generally speaking, the key weakness in defending protected bird life is that many bird societies do make "deals", and monitoring contracts can become a bargaining tool in the negotiations with wind farm developers. Yet, monitoring won´t stop the birds from being killed : Altamont Pass is a good example of that. It is another abuse that we wish to denounce : monitoring is often being presented as mitigation, but all it really does is provide jobs for ornithologists. And some bird societies remove their objections when enough money is being offered for monitoring ( e.g. several million dollars for the Nantucket Sound/Cape Cod wind farm project in the US, if we are to believe what we were told - but it does compare with similar contracts at other large wind farms ). In this case the Massachusetts Chapter of the Audubon Society removed their objection in spite of having themselves predicted the death of ca. 5,000 birds a year, some of them listed for protection. It is a sad state of affairs.

In the case of the high-profile, eagle-sensitive project of Edinbane, monitoring has been agreed upon to last 5 years. That represents a substantial sum of money for the lucky ornithologists that will be chosen. Here are some interesting quotes from the SNH press release “SNH withdraws objection to Skye windfarm 26/02/2007” :

“SNH has also advised that a legal condition to set up monitoring of the effect of the development on raptors should be established. This monitoring scheme will help provide information to inform decisions on windfarm proposals in other areas supporting similar levels of raptor activity.”

Our comment : as if we didn´t have enough evidence from Altamont Pass, Smola, Woolnorth, Gotland, Germany, Spain, and Japan ! (9) But it will provide jobs to ornithologists, and give the false impression that some “mitigation” will take place.

"The area is mainly used by young non-territorial golden eagles and hopefully monitoring will shed some light on how they react to turbines which will be useful in assessing windfarms in other areas."

Our comment: How they react to turbines, they ask ? - They get too close and get killed, that´s how. Aren’t 20 years of monitoring young golden eagles at Altamont Pass enough to understand that wind turbines are deadly to these birds ? Over 2,000 young golden eagles have been killed by that wind farm already (fully documented by biologists) : isn´t that sufficient proof ? How many more dead eagles do research-money seeking ornithologists need before they understand this ?
Sadly, this SNH press release satisfied that large segment of the media which strongly believes in the usefulness of wind turbines, and is poorly informed about bird mortality at wind farms. So the misinformation perpetuates itself.

In spite of an advantageous monitoring plan ( 5 years !) being agreed upon, the RSPB in this case maintained their objection till the end. That did not succeed in saving the eagles from the deadly project, unfortunately, but helped RSPB management to save face in the Edinbane scandal. Whereas a firm, unequivocal opposition to the project right from the start could have tipped the scales. Indeed the RSPB can stop a project when their opposition is robust, or is stated unconditionally at the very beginning : e.g. Lewis Wind and Glen Tarken, respectively. Thus, in our view, they have a responsibility in the significant eagle mortality that is bound to occur at Edinbane and Ben Aketil, and at a number of other projects with high "collateral damage" to the eagles and to which they only objected conditionally.

In any event, for the purpose of this complaint, let us note that the RSPB warned the planning authorities about the unreliability of the SNH collision model.

Mike Madders and Philip Whitfield themselves, pro-wind ornithologists whose questionable science has been used to justify building wind farms within eagle breeding territories, admit that the avoidance factor is "poorly understood", and that predictions by modelling have serious deficiencies :

"There are practical problems associated with gathering the data required to run the model and numerous assumptions must be made concerning bird behaviour. This can lead to deficiencies in the input parameters which potentially have a large effect on the model outputs. Hence, we make recommendations for potential improvements, such as quantifying error in flight height estimation, training of observers in acuity skills, quantifying bird detection-distance functions, and research on factors influencing activity budgets and flight behaviour. In addition, the model outputs are usually adjusted to take account of turbine avoidance by birds and this aspect of birds´ behaviour is poorly understood." - UPLAND RAPTORS AND THE ASSESSMENT OF WIND FARM IMPACTS Mike Madders & D. Philip Whitfield (March 2006)

Not only that, but the avoidance rate can be easily manipulated, as its components are subjective in many ways. For instance : the delimitation of the survey area is crucial, as large areas dilute eagle activity and result in lower collision predictions. In the words of Dr J. Carter (private comment) : "...eagle activity is concentrated on the ridges where the turbines are to be placed but a very much larger survey area is used which has the effect of diluting the average eagle activity over a wider area." And the contrary can be done where the avoidance rate is calculated, i.e. Altamont Pass where there are actual eagle collision statistics to compare with flight activity. There, the smaller the area chosen for the flight survey, and the higher the average eagle activity in the small area selected, the higher the resulting avoidance rate ( for it is compared to actual collisions ). Both manipulations reinforce each other and produce distorted, unrealistically low collision predictions. The case of Edinbane gives an idea of the range of distortions : by manipulating the avoidance rate from 95% to 98%, the predictions came down from 137 dead eagles to only 27. It says it all.

Subjectivity is everywhere in this inexact science : at Edinbane, a local ornithologist reported the presence of breeding merlins 300 metres from the location of a future wind turbine, whereas the consultants had reported no merlin breeding activity in the entire area. We have his letter on file.


At Altamont Pass, California, over 20,000 raptors including 2,000 - 3,000 golden eagles have died from collision with wind turbines since the wind farm was built in the eighties. As a result, the wind industry, bird societies, and public administrations vowed not to repeat the mistake of placing wind turbines in areas with high concentrations of raptors. But what value should we place on their promises? - None! For they keep repeating the same mistake. First at Smola, Norway, with disastrous consequences for the Sea Eagles that breed on the island. Then it was the turn of the Woolnorth wind farm, Tasmania, where critically endangered Tasmanian wedge-tailed eagles are being slaughtered. Then we had the wind farm on the island of Gotland, Sweden, whose turbines kill golden eagles among many other birds. And now the "mistake" will be repeated in Scotland at Edinbane, at Ben Aketil, at Eishken, at Pairc, etc. Their environmental impact assessments are biased, their collision predictions are doctored, the danger to eagle populations is evident, and there is no estimate of cumulative impacts. Yet SNH are withdrawing their objections one after the other, effectively giving the green light to the killing of a great many eagles leading to their extinction in Scotland and the UK. Appearances are maintained by claiming "new evidence from a new survey" (the case of Pentland Road), or "a more accurate avoidance rate" (Edinbane, Eishken, etc.). But the science behind the whole process is shallow, subjective, incomplete, and manipulated. SNH are giving the wrong example to the rest of the world. The RSPB are not doing much better : among other things they failed to denounce the deceitful practices described here : ---> THE SHAME OF SCOTLAND (http://www.iberica2000.org/Es/Articulo.asp?Id=3426)

More on the duplicity of the bird society ---> Eagles and wind farms : mortality statistics

With bird societies looking the other way, junk science can be used to rubber stamp wind farm applications in bird-sensitive areas around the world : at the Woolnorth wind farm (Tasmania), 20 eagles belonging to an endangered species have been killed by the rotors over 4 years. Yet the consultants had predicted only one death per year for 7 Tasmanian wind farms including this one (13). The difference is in the order of one order of magnitude. And the killings will continue. Dr. Eric Woehler, chairman of Birds Tasmania, said about Woolnorth: "It´s killing eagles that were resident and drawing more in from the surrounding areas, so it will continue to be a black hole for these birds" (14). There are less than 220 pairs of the Tasmanian Wedge-tailed Eagle (www.environment.gov.au). The species is now on its way to extinction, thanks to wind farms.


The vegetation cover at wind farm locations in the Hebrides is blanket peat. Substantial amounts of CO2 will be released into the atmosphere when the wind farms are built : ca.10 times more than if a like area of forestry was burnt . As the purpose of wind farms is to save on CO2 emissions, it is simply absurd.

These islands are also vitally important to migrating birds. This is where thousands of birds make landfall after their long journey over the ocean. It is a long way from Greenland and Iceland, and many flocks and skeins arrive after sunset. Poor visibility and gusts of wind will cause many to be killed, year after year, by the turbine blades. The risk to migrating birds was either not considered, or arbitrarily dismissed in the environmental impact assessments.


Eagles, as we shall see, are being decimated by wind farms around the world. These act as "population sinks", killing birds year after year to the point where it affects their populations ( see Dr Smallwood et al. further below ). Placing such death traps within the eagles´ critical strongholds in Scotland is a wildlife crime of the utmost gravity. The difference with the Exxon Valdez catastrophe is that this one is being planned. It is an act of ecological vandalism.


The SNH map above reveals the existence of a coherent, un-fragmented zone that happens to be free of wind farms (or projects thereof) along the north-western coast of Scotland, connecting inland with the Grampian Mountains, the Cairngorm, and the Trossachs. Some prime eagle habitats are included, but the most critical ones in terms of conservation of the species are threatened by wind farm projects : Lewis and Skye.

It stands to reason that these islands, and the rest of the Hebrides, should be included in the turbine-free zone. Besides the obvious consideration of preserving wild lands of great ecological value, this should be done because :

1 - the Hebrides are the bastion of the Sea Eagle in the UK, from which young specimens fly to the mainland and re-populate their former habitat - as was planned in their reintroduction programme. These islands harbour 90% of the UK´s breeding pairs.

2 - they hold the highest concentration of golden eagles in the UK, perhaps Europe.

3 - these concentrations of breeding eagles are the most productive in the country. The golden eagles too export, by way of natural emigration, young specimens to the rest of Scotland (3). Without this flux, the persecuted GE population of the mainland would decline more rapidly.

4 - the islands are within sight of the coast, and form with it a coherent, un-fragmented habitat limited by the sea to the West and to the North. Eagles crossing these coastal limits would not be threatened except, God forbid, by eventual offshore wind farms ( and by the Durness and Melness onshore projects, near the northern coast, which should not be allowed to proceed ).

Such a coherent, un-fragmented, and productive habitat including the Hebrides could save the Scottish eagles from their looming extinction in the deleterious wind farm context. Let´s call it, for ease of reference, the Coherent Wind-farm Exclusion Zone, or CWEZ.

The immediate designation and implementation of the CWEZ constitutes our first recommendation to the European Commission.


Apologists of the wind industry frequently argue that other factors such as persecution, poisoning, power lines, forestry, and overgrazing are more of a threat to eagle populations than are wind farms. But they fail to consider the following :

a) - these other perils are not new, and won´t go away in the short to medium term, not even the long term perhaps. On the contrary, badly sited, dangerous wind farms can be stopped before they are built.

b) - wind farm mortality comes in addition to that caused by traditional hazards : the cumulative effect of all these hazards taken together is the problem. Wind farm mortality will be what spills the glass.

c) - the Sea Eagles in the UK are reintroduced. They have only 46 breeding pairs ( all of them in Scotland ), and are therefore vulnerable as a population. Their cousins the GEs are in "demographic difficulty" , i.e. vulnerable as well. In such circumstances, additional mortality from a new, permanent hazard such as wind farms spells population decline leading to extinction. Technically, most of the additional mortality is to be considered as "additive", if only because of the precautionary principle ( but it is also true statistically ). And SPA populations won´t be spared, because young eagles do not stay within them ( see below ).

The issue of GE demographic difficulty has been ignored by the decision makers. So let´s review the scientific evidence.


I quote :

"Whitfield et al. (2004a) suggested that a favourable status criterion should be that in at least 95% of breeding pairs both partners should be adult ( birds at least 4 years old ) ..." (3)

Further in the same study we read :

" The percentage of pairs in which both partners were adult in 2003 was 84.3% which was also an indication of demographic difficulty ( national value was about 90% ... )" (3)

In view of the 95% limit indicated in the first quote, it is clear that a doubling of sub-adult eagles in breeding pairs, as revealed by the 90% of the second quote, is a sign of "unfavourable status" ( i.e. demographic difficulty ).

This was confirmed in a later report :

"Occupying approximately 440 territories in 2003, the national golden eagle population of Scotland failed to meet the abundance target for favourable conservation status." (4)

The upshot is that the Scottish GE population is ALREADY in decline : in 10% of the 440 breeding pairs, one of the partners is not an adult. This means that there aren´t enough 4-year olds to recruit into the breeding population.


When "floaters" ( young unattached adults at least 4 years old ) are not numerous enough to replace dying adults, sub-adults then happen to fill the vacuum, pairing up with breeders that have lost their mates but haven´t found 4-year olds to replace them. This paucity of floaters is an indication of unsustainable pre-adult mortality, which has caused an overall decline in the population of young eagles. All things being equal, i.e. if the pre-adult mortality rate continues to be as high, sooner or later the number of breeding pairs will fall ( it may already have, as the last census is already 7 years old. As a matter of fact, the RSPB has said that it IS falling : see the quote further below ). And it will be worse if additional mortality is brought to bear, from wind farms for example. This will tip the already reduced population into rapid decline, among both adults and sub-adults.

In a population with unfavourable conservation status such as this one, mortality of pre-adults is as crucial as that of reproducing adults : every young eagle that dies has an impact on the whole population. Yet in Scotland, in Spain, and elsewhere in the EU where eagle populations are in demographic difficulty, wind farms are being built where young eagles like to fly, such as windy hills that are not part of territories defended by adults. The infamous Altamont Pass wind farm is built on such hills, and it has killed over 2,000 young eagles, apparently causing a decline in the GE populations of California and beyond ( see below, in the section "EAGLES ARE PRONE TO BE KILLED BY WIND TURBINES" ). And sad to say, the Scottish authorities are repeating the same costly mistake with the wind farm projects of Edinbane and Ben Aketil : about 200 young eagles are likely to die there over the first 25 years (5). These kills, only 22 of which have been "predicted" ( 15 for Edinbane, and 5 to 8.5 for Ben Aketil ), will accelerate the decline of the Scottish GE population.

In this connection, here is the quote we referred to above :

“8.22 - … criticism has been received relating to the acceptable mortality rate of 0.6 collisions/year originally set by SNH for the Edinbane wind farm. This was before Ben Aketil had been determined with its 0.21 – 0.34 collisions/year mortality rate. RSPB and others believe a combined mortality rate of 0.78 – 0.91 collision/year to be too high."

"9.4 - With regards to birds, RSPB and others contend that the combined mortality for both Edinbane and Ben Aketil is too high in light of the apparent declining population.
---> LINK

Thus, the RSPB opposes the construction of Edinbane and is saying that, apparently, the GE population is in decline. This confirms what we have been saying, and is in contrast with what has been claimed by ornithologist Malcolm Ogilvie, who advises SNH on these matters. If the RSPB recognises that the GE population is in decline, how can SNH decide that 22 additional eagle deaths won´t matter ? - plus those predicted to die at other wind farms, plus all those not predicted !

Note : 0.91 collision/year x 25 = 22.75 dead golden eagles in 25 years for Edinbane and Ben Aketil jointly. Even this doctored, minimised collision prediction would affect the GE interest of the Cuillins SPA, says the RSPB. And in fact it´s not 22, but about 200 GE deaths that these two adjoining windfarms are likely to kill. Plus those eagles that will be electrocuted, like the 6 that died in 2009 at Smola ( in addition to 7 from the wind turbines ). Why didn´t SNH evaluate the mortality from the high tension lines to be built for Edinbane ? Electrocution, but also collision with the wires will kill more eagles. This is another reason for the European Commission to step in : the impact on the Cuillins SPA was improperly assessed, for the turbines only were considered, not their power lines.

(imagen omitida)

Above picture : dead storks, maimed or killed by collision with power lines. Many millions of birds are killed this way every year, in Saudi Arabia as above but also in France, Germany, the UK, etc.
As each wind farm must be linked to the national grid by high tension lines, 250+ wind farms in Scotland will cause to be built ca.2,500 km of these dangerous lines, crisscrossing bird habitats of great value. Studies quoted by Birdlife International say that HT lines kill 200-500 birds/km/year. So, conservatively : 2,500 km x 200 birds/km/year = 500,000 additional birds killed every year, just in Scotland, and just for the additional HT lines needed for the wind farms --->Windfarms - the bird massacre continues.


Slopes and ridges attract raptors and other birds looking for lift, because of the presence of declivity winds. Eagles that hunt using the technique of "contour flying" are also fond of ridges, which allow them to surprise their prey ( ANNEX - section A ). Hills are also preferred because of low human presence as compared to flat lands. All this puts raptors on a collision course with wind farms, which are often built on windy hills and ridges to maximise profit. The competition between raptors and wind farms for the same spots was demonstrated in a recent, ground-breaking study (ANNEX - section A). If this wasn´t enough, several other factors actually attract raptors close to wind turbines (ANNEX - section A).

Young golden and sea eagles may roam over Scotland during 3 or 4 years before settling down in a breeding territory. Until then they know no boundary, so they will inevitably come into contact with the many wind farms that are built on topographical features that attract them : windy hills and ridges. This spells disaster for both eagle species.

In such a context, only our recommendation to create the CWEZ as described earlier has a chance of saving these magnificent birds from extinction in the UK. Thanks to the good size and coherence of the CWEZ, a much larger proportion of the young eagles´ flights will take place in turbine-free territory - far more than would be the case with SPAs separated from each other by land sprinkled with wind turbines. And some birds may actually never fly out of the CWEZ.


Like most raptors, eagles are particularly vulnerable to the giant blades, which travel at 150 - 300 kph at the tip while giving the appearance of moving leisurely. When turning, when circling, or when focusing on prey, their chances of being struck are high. Their dependence on air currents for lift is also a factor, being a constraint affecting their flight path. And most importantly, they are not afraid of wind turbines : they are attracted to them (ANNEX, section A). All this is best evidenced by a recent video showing a vulture colliding with a wind turbine in Greece : ---> LINK to collision video
...and of a turkey vulture perched on a moving turbine at Altamont Pass :
LINK to “not afraid” video
… and by pictures of raptors perched on wind turbines :
LINK to red-tailed hawk perched on nacelle (http://www.iberica2000.org/documents/eolica/photos/red_tailed_hawk_perched_on_nacelle.jpg )
LINK to raptor perched on blade (http://www.iberica2000.org/documents/eolica/photos/blade_perching.jpg)

All raptors have roughly similar flights patterns when it comes to soaring, circling, and gliding. But some, like eagles, vultures, kites, buzzards, etc. spend more time in these flight modes than do others. This may explain the frequency of their collisions with wind turbines, which is otherwise related to local abundance of both birds and turbines. In 2004 at Altamont Pass, where golden eagles and turbines are both abundant, a study estimated that over 100 GEs were being killed yearly (6) - i.e. in excess of 2,000 in the 20 years from the construction of the wind farm in the early eighties. Lately, their mortality has been about halved since the years covered by the study (1998-2003), probably due to a population decline. Indeed, Dr. Smallwood et al. recently reported having observed a 56% drop in the number of sightings of golden eagles at the Altamont (ANNEX, section A : drop in mortality reported by Hunt & Hunt, and drop in sightings noted by Smallwood et al.).

Note : Altamont Pass being a prey-rich dispersion area attracting young golden eagles from different parts of California and neighbouring States, the birds that are being killed are mostly rovers (floaters and sub-adults) from far away places. Therefore, a lower count of eagles within the Altamont wind farm area does not necessarily reflect a decline in the local population of breeders, but rather a decline in far away populations, arguably because they have lost many young eagles at the Altamont over 20 years ( the “population sink" effect ). The local breeding population, on the other hand, can recruit among the long-distance rovers that come to Altamont ( sometimes called "migrants", even though only a portion of them are wintering ). The local population was thus reported to be stable in the Grainger Hunt report of July 2002 (7). But the conclusion of the said report was misleading : it left the reader with the impression that the killings had no effect on the GE population in general ( i.e. that there was an excess of young eagles and that it was of no importance if some were killed by wind turbines ). I denounced this in 2003 (8). As the killing of raptors couldn´t be denied, the next best thing for the wind industry and their consultants was to try and deny any effect on their populations. This is still the argument that ornithologist Stan Moore uses on various bird forums (Stan is a well-known pro-wind activist). Hunt and Hunt were more objective in their report of 2006, saying that more eagles were being killed by the turbines than could be produced by the local population of 58 pairs. More on this subject in the ANNEX below.

In Navarre, Spain, where vultures are far more abundant than eagles, a study by Dr Lekuona (2001) estimated that 368 turbines had killed 409 griffon vultures in a single year, and 24 other raptors including golden eagles, booted eagles, eagle owls, sparrow hawks, and kestrels (8).

Altamont Pass and Navarre are not exceptional : eagles are being decimated by wind farms all over the world, particularly where they abound, e.g. at Smola (Norway), Woolnorth (Tasmania), Gotland (Sweden), and certain areas in Spain, Japan, Germany, etc. (9).

Raptor abundance where wind farms are located is thus an important factor in their mortality. Another is what we mentioned earlier : raptors frequently use windy slopes and ridges to be able to fly without flapping their wings, thus saving energy. Yet, for extra profit, wind farm developers are erecting their turbines on these very hills. And compounding the risk, the wind farms themselves attract raptors for a number of reasons : see our list in the ANNEX below, section A. But few conservation organisations care to try and stop the approval of ill-sited projects, even if bird conservation laws are being violated. Bulgarian Bird Life, and more recently the John Muir Trust in Scotland and SEO/Birdlife in Spain, seem to be taking a more sensible stance.

Another factor rarely mentioned is that, usually, land can be leased cheaply in wild lands, and even more in bird reserves designated as SPAs, SACs, and IBAs, where developments other than politically fashionable wind farms would be unlikely to obtain planning permission.

(imagen omitida)

Above picture : these cranes were killed by high tension power lines built to deliver electricity produced by several wind farms in the Cádiz province, Spain ---> LINK (http://www.iberica2000.org/Es/articulo.asp?Id=3717)


In view of the multiple factors leading to collisions between eagles and wind turbines, it stands to reason that wind farms should not be installed within eagle breeding territories ( e.g. the projects of Eishken, Pairc Estate, Pentland Road ), or on windy hills in dispersion areas for young eagles ( e.g. Altamont Pass, Edinbane, Ben Aketil ).

To avoid repeating the same mistakes over and over again, we recommend :

I ) - an unconditional setback from eagle nesting sites. SEO/Birdlife recognises a risk up to 15 km, and suggests case by case studies to make a determination (ANNEX - section B). But knowing how biased and mendacious these studies often are in the real world, a standard and firm setback of 15 km should be imposed (precautionary principle).

II ) – windy hills in eagle dispersion areas, and known to local bird watchers for being used by young eagles, should be kept free of wind turbines.


Bird societies or charities have been slow to recognise the danger wind farms represent for raptor and other bird populations. Acute conflicts of interest affect ornithologists : the wind-power business has become their main employer in Europe, as well as the predominant benefactor of bird societies. There is even the case of a bird charity doing business with an electricity company (Scottish and Southern Power), which sells a product called "RSPB Energy" (sic), with the aim to promote renewable energy ( i.e. mainly wind farms at the moment ). The RSPB have thus a vested interest in claiming that wind farms and birds can be made compatible almost anywhere. They go around the difficulty by saying that it is a matter of carefully choosing the location, or adopting mitigation measures.

If this looks good on paper, the reality does not conform to their declaration of good intentions. We have seen that wind farms are often approved to be built in the worst possible locations from a bird conservation point of view ( Edinbane, Ben Aketil, Eishken, Pairc Estate, Feiriosbhal, Pentland Road, etc.). As for attempts to mitigate poorly-sited wind farms, they have failed - e.g. Altamont Pass, Woolnorth, Smola, Beinn an Tuirc... Studies are sometimes made to evaluate the effects of mitigation but, and this borders on the farcical, they are conducted by people who have an interest in proving mitigation success ( it´s the Exxon Valdez analogy again ). For example this was done for the "mitigated" Beinn an Tuirc wind farm in Scotland, built within the breeding range of a pair of golden eagles. It was a grossly inadequate, shoddy monitoring job that did not even include looking for dead eagles under the turbines ! But yet the report was used to claim "mitigation success" (sic). The wind industry used this parody of science as proof that wind farms could be built in eagle breeding territories. I denounced this charade all along, and my analysis of the faulty study was again published in March 2008 (1).

This is the sort of misuse of "science" (junk science in fact) that we at Save the Eagles International are trying to bring to the attention of conscientious conservationists, in a bid to save the eagles from extinction in Europe and elsewhere.

Shortly after hired-ornithologists** had trumpeted around the world the (false) news that mitigation at Beinn an Tuirc had been a success, it was found that the male eagle had "disappeared" (1). But that part of the news was not publicised, and the windfarm propaganda machine continues pretending to this day that eagles can learn to avoid wind turbines. The wind industry have deep pockets, so unfortunately their voice carries much further than ours can.

** hired ornithologists :
They can behave like hired guns at times. We have been the subject of vicious attacks by some of them on ornithology forums, leading to some of us being censored or even banned forever. The wind industry is a provider of research money, and that gives them clout with forum owners. We, on the other hand, have no money to spend at all : we defend the birds on our free time.

The upshot is that, by their silence over real mortality at wind farms, bird societies and the ornithology profession in general are doing severe harm to the conservation of bird life in the EU.

The years we have spent exposing this scandal have not been in vain. Today, more ornithologists are showing concern for the threat that wind farms represent for biodiversity ; and in the last few years, a number of studies have recognised the windmills´ potential for harm. They received little publicity, but we have compiled a few and outlined their most significant findings in the ANNEX at the end of this presentation. They provide scientific support to our recommendations.


Creating up to six Special Protection Areas (Natura 2000) scattered over Scotland cannot mitigate the sure death of hundreds of eagles (5) in the islands of Lewis and Skye, and the many other fatalities across Scotland - a mortality that will accelerate the decline of the GE population towards its extinction, and condemn to failure the recuperation programme of the Sea Eagle. Adult eagles will be killed too, since as many as 100 wind farms may be built within less than 15 km from eagle nesting sites, i.e. within their breeding territories where they do the hunting. The prospective SPAs are already turbine-free, so there will be no positive gain to make up for these numerous, unsustainable deaths.

Moreover, even the young eagles born in SPAs will be killed by wind turbines as they leave these havens to explore the world, flying from windy hill to windy hill, i.e. from wind farm to wind farm. For example : the eagle interest of the Cuillins SPA, close to the deleterious Edinbane and Ben Aketil wind farms, will be harmed, for we know that :

1) - the prediction of 22 collisions of young eagles over 25 years at these 2 wind farms is an out and out manipulation (see our previous comments on this). A more realistic prediction would be about 200, as discussed earlier.

2) - the RSPB “and others” have objected that even 22 deaths would affect the integrity of the Cuillins SPA. ( see the quote at the end of the earlier section “PRE-ADULT MORTALITY AND THE SCOTTISH GOLDEN EAGLE” ).

Only the CWEZ as proposed offers a chance of survival to the eagle population of Scotland. Some young eagles will undoubtedly be killed as they venture outside of it, but the frequency of their flights in perilous turbine-studded landscapes will be much lower than would otherwise be the case with fragmented SPAs. Besides, even SPAs are not safe : one of them will have a wind farm built within (Pentland Road).


In Spain, wind farms have been scattered indiscriminately all over the country except for Extremadura. This remote region bordering with Portugal is the EU´s Nº1 haven for large birds. It is critical habitat for thousands of cranes and great bustards, and vital for the conservation of 2 different species of storks, 3 species of vultures, and 5 species of eagles, one of them already critically endangered ( the Spanish imperial eagle ). Smaller bird species also abound, many of them designated as vulnerable or worse. There is also hope that the wolf and the critically-endangered Iberian lynx may re-establish themselves in the region. Actually, we don´t know that it isn´t the case already : recently, lynxes have been tracked in mountains of the Sistema Central ( Guadarrama & Gredos, and the latter massif lies partly in Extremadura ) (11).

If I may venture a bold comparison : for wildlife, Extremadura is to the EU what the Serengeti is to Africa. The Spanish Ornithological Society (SEO/Birdlife), which like the RSPB have been actively promoting wind farms, are now concerned by the deleterious effects these will have in Extremadura. I understand they sent a petition to the European Commission on this matter : 22 wind farm projects have been approved in this bird-sensitive region.

However, by chance, Extremadura was just denied a wind power quota until 2012 : too many wind farm projects in the rest of Spain will saturate the grid. So the European Commission has two years to save this biodiversity haven. It isn´t too much, for predictably Spanish politicians would try and resist pressure from the EC. The whole question is : will the EC act, or will they sacrifice the Cranes, the Great Bustards, the Imperial Eagles, the Bonellis Eagles, the Black Storks etc. to the greed of developers ?

Thousands of raptors and millions of other birds have already been killed by wind farms in the rest of Spain - e.g. 1,000-2,000 griffon vultures a year (10) and conservatively 20 birds/turbine/year x 16,000 turbines = 320,000 birds/year (8) . I say "conservatively" because a) Dr Lekuona himself said in his report that 20 birds/turbine/year in Navarre was a conservative estimate, and b) because Dr Smallwood later found that “scavenger swamping" causes severe under-reporting of mortality (ANNEX - A).

The Spanish Ornithological Society themselves estimated that 1,000,000 victims a year was within the possibilities (ANNEX - B). It would therefore be folly not to save from this slaughter the critically and internationally important bird populations of Extremadura. Solar plants are already sprouting in the region´s stepparian habitat that is ideal for cranes, bustards etc. : these projects too should be stopped. There are alternative locations for solar collectors in the rest of Spain.

Birds that won´t fly within range of the turbine blades may get maimed or killed by the new high tension lines that will link wind farms and solar plants to the grid. I have posted above two pictures of large birds that have been killed by power lines : this is to remind us that the new lines needed by the wind farms could kill even more birds than the turbines themselves. Indeed, HT power lines can kill as many as 500 birds per kilometre/year, as per a study quoted by Birdlife International : ---> Power line bird kills (http://www.iberica2000.org/Es/Articulo.asp?Id=3717)

“Jorge”, the last great bustard of the province of Cadiz, was killed by a power line ( according to pro-windfarm ornithologists ). It may also have been a wind turbine that did it : see the wound in the second picture, here : JORGE the last bustard (http://www.iberica2000.org/Es/Articulo.asp?Id=2949)


The European Commission have the power to save listed bird species from indiscriminate development within the EU. This is why taxpayers’ money was spent on drafting and putting in place European legislation known as the Wild Birds and Habitats Directives, and then to update them. This being the case, History will judge severely the EC´s unwillingness to stop private interests from vandalising our last patches of rare birds´ habitat, and from destroying the very biodiversity it is the EC´s mission to protect. The blind eye EU officials have been turning to the cumulative effect of so many wind farms may not be easily forgiven. The same holds true of many bird societies and ornithologists. But it is still possible to save the Hebrides islands, Extremadura, etc. : as the saying goes, better late than never.

To recapitulate, here are the urgent measures we recommend :

A) - designation of the CWEZ in Scotland. The windfarm projects within it, i.e. those affecting the isles of Lewis, Skye, and Tiree, plus the projects of Durness, Melness, Lochluichart, Corriemollie, Glen Moriston, Druim Fada, Dunmaglass, Corriegarth, and all those located in Argyll, should not be allowed to be built ( where already built, they should be decommissioned at the end of their useful lives, if not earlier ).

B) - in Spain, designation of the whole of Extremadura, the southernmost part of the province of Salamanca, and the Gredos Mountains as a Coherent Windfarm Exclusion Zone. The Gredos massif, part of which lies in Extremadura, is teeming with raptors in the summer, and great bustards were also observed. As for Salamanca, this province borders on the south with Extremadura, sharing the same mountain range, which is also linked to Gredos. The whole forms a coherent habitat also used by migrating birds. And thinking of the critically-endangered Iberian lynx, the mountains of Guadarrama should also be included in the CWEZ.

C) - designation of coherent wind farm exclusion zones in other EU countries. The Danube delta, and other crucial European wildlife habitats, urgently need to be protected from greed in green disguise. This includes certain offshore areas, as migrating birds often fly over the seas. Vested interests are putting forward an inadequate study (financed by them) which alleges that migrating birds avoid offshore wind farms. But most collisions occur in bad weather or at night, when observers stay ashore and are not there to witness and record them. That makes the study worthless.

D) - elsewhere, wind turbines should not be erected closer than 15km from eagle nesting sites, 15 km from wetlands, and 50 km from vulture colonies ( SEO/Birdlife - ANNEX - B ). The precautionary principle should prevail over mendacious case-by-case environmental impact studies, which are inevitably biased by their source of funding.

E) - wind turbines should not be erected on slopes and ridges known to be used by young eagles ( Dr Smallwood et al. and SEO/Birdlife - ANNEX, sections A and B ). The tragic mistake of Altamont Pass should not be repeated, yet it is about to be at Edinbane and Ben Aketil.

We hope that the European Commission will assert itself as the guardian of EU biodiversity, rather than the yes-man of political and financial interests. Its credibility, and that of the EU as a whole, is at stake ; and the matter is URGENT. Every minute counts for saving the Hebrides islands and the Scottish eagles. And if the time frame is not as tight for Extremadura, it is so for southern Salamanca, Gredos, and Guadarrama.

All that needs to be done is to enforce existing European legislation, which protects the eagles and other listed bird species from human disturbance. Isn´t "predicted accidental death" from an invasion of wind turbines a disturbance ? Isn´t extinction of the species a disturbance ? The main thrust of the Wild Birds and Habitats Directives is to protect listed bird species from disturbance, and to protect and/or restore their habitats. Yet with the wind farm onslaught we have cases of disturbance of the highest order (death), and destruction of habitat on a vast scale ; but the European Commission pretends there are no grounds for taking the matter to the European Court of Justice. This is a denial of justice of huge proportions, which may cause people to ask themselves the question : is the EU still being governed by the rule of law ?

Let the record show that we started to complain to the EC years ago about this looming biodiversity disaster, to no avail. We hope that this more comprehensive presentation, including new scientific and other legally acceptable evidence, will elicit a response favourable to the EU´s beleaguered eagles. Isn´t 2010 the “International Year of Biodiversity” ?

We rest our case.

On Feb.16 to 23 of this year, in 7 separate emails, we sent to the EC a slightly shorter version of this complaint, including the ANNEX below. The urgency of the matter made that necessary. Now, having had more time to complete our text and to include legal arguments as requested by the EC, we are submitting this as a new petition to the EC.

We also wish to remind the Commission of our earlier plea for the Red Kite. You replied that you had transmitted our petition to Birdlife International. This means in fact that the RSPB will be entertaining it, as they are the ones who are drafting the Red Kite EU Action Plan. But our petition was precisely a criticism of their draft. Given the keen pro-windfarm activism of the RSPB, we doubt very much that they will do anything that may hamper the onslaught of wind turbines in red kite habitat. In the circumstances, please consider our plea for the Red Kite as a fully-fledged complaint to the European Commission, not to the RSPB. The bird is going extinct in parts of Italy where wind farms have been built : surely, extinction must count as a “disturbance” as per the Wild Birds and Habitats Directives and their update ?
Our plea has been updated and published here : ---> LINK (http://www.iberica2000.org/Es/Articulo.asp?Id=4282)

Last updated on April 1, 2010

Mark Duchamp
Director, Iberica 2000
President, Save the Eagles International
Related articles/videos : LINK (http://www.iberica2000.org/Es/Articulo.asp?Id=1228)


(1) - COVERING UP THE DEATH OF EAGLES AT SCOTTISH WIND FARMS - M. Duchamp (2008) : ---> LINK (http://www.iberica2000.org/Es/Articulo.asp?Id=3744)

(2) - Map of golden eagle abundance in Scotland : ---> LINK (http://www.iberica2000.org/documents/eolica/maps/Scottish_golden_eagle_abundance_map.jpg)


(4) - A CONSERVATION FRAMEWORK FOR GOLDEN EAGLES: IMPLICATIONS FOR THEIR CONSERVATION AND MANAGEMENT IN SCOTLAND. - Whitfield, D P, Fielding, A H, McLeod, D R A and Haworth, P F (2008). Scottish Natural Heritage Commissioned Report No.193 (ROAME No. F05AC306) : ---> LINK

(5) - Dr. Stephen Debus says: "In practice there have been 12 eagle deaths in two years, and 20 in four years (i.e. an average of 5 per year), at the Woolnorth wind farm alone. Obviously something is wrong with the models or their inputs (e.g. the 99% avoidance assumption) if the reality is an order of magnitude above predictions."(13)
As a rule of thumb, when a developer´s environmental impact assessment predicts, say, 15 eagle deaths over 25 years, the prediction is shy by one order of magnitude - i.e. 15 multiplied by 10 = 150 real deaths. This is based on real life experience at Woolnorth, Smola, Gotland, etc... This is also confirmed by the initial prediction of 137 eagle collisions at Edinbane. See also our earlier remark about collusion, with regard to mortality predictions.

(6) - DEVELOPING METHODS TO REDUCE BIRD MORTALITY IN THE ALTAMONT PASS WIND RESOURCE AREA - Dr. Smallwood & K. Thelander (Aug. 2004). See chapter 3, page 73, table 3.11 : "116.5 golden eagles p.a . adjusted for search detection and scavenging " : ---> LINK

(7) - GOLDEN EAGLES IN A PERILOUS LANDSCAPE: PREDICTING THE EFFECTS OF MITIGATION FOR WIND TURBINE BLADE-STRIKE MORTALITY - Grainger Hunt - PIER study sponsored by the California Energy Commision (July 2002). ---> Available upon request to save.the.eagles@gmail.com

(8) - BIRDS AND WIND FARMS - CRITICAL ANALYSIS OF 4 REPORTS ON BIRD MORTALITY AT WIND FARM SITES - M. Duchamp (2003) : ---> LINK (http://www.iberica2000.org/Es/Articulo.asp?Id=1223)

(9) - EAGLES AND WIND FARMS - M. Duchamp (2006/2008) : ---> LINK (http://www.iberica2000.org/Es/Articulo.asp?Id=3071)

(10) - WIND FARMS SLAUGHTER VULTURES IN SPAIN - COVERING UP THE EVIDENCE - M. Duchamp (May 2006) : ---> LINK (http://www.iberica2000.org/Es/Articulo.asp?Id=2968)

(11) - LYNXES IN THE GUADARRAMA MOUNTAINS (http://www.iberica2000.org/Es/Articulo.asp?Id=4263)


(13) - 20 eagles killed at Woolnorth (http://www.iberica2000.org/documents/eolica/bird_mortality/Yaloak_South_Debus_comments.pdf)

(14) - Eric Woehler, chairman of Birds Tasmania : the Woolnorth wind farm is acting as a "black hole" ---> BLACK HOLE (http://www.iberica2000.org/documents/eolica/bird_mortality/black_hole_or_population_sink.doc)




Significant quotes :

"This study found evidence that suggests the APWRA ( Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area, i.e. wind farm ) may be a population sink for golden eagles as well as burrowing owls."

" Based on an extensive radio telemetry study and analysis of golden eagle mortality in vicinity of the APRWA, Hunt and Hunt (2006) estimated that more eagles are killed by turbine blade strikes than can be produced by the “local” studied population of 58 pairs. In other words, the long term impact of the APWRA on the local golden eagle population is clearly negative. "

But paradoxically the local breeding population has so far remained stable. Here is why : further in the study it is said that "immigration" from other zones buffer the negative impact of the wind farm on the local population. But eagle immigration, unlike the human kind, is not made of population surpluses that can´t find sustenance where they come from. The specimens that gather at Altamont Pass are young eagles that roam the Western United States for 3-5 years before settling down somewhere in that vast region. Consequently, the specimens that recruit into the impoverished local breeding population around Altamont will not be available for recruitment elsewhere. Of the more than 2000 mostly young eagles that have been killed by the Altamont Pass wind farm, we recognise that some would have been killed by other hazards anyway. But if we look at the overall mortality rates for the various non-adult age groups, it is likely that 50% - 80% of the young eagles killed at the Altamont would have otherwise become breeding adults. It is thus a significant loss for the population of the Western United States ( 10,000 - 20,000 individuals ), which is below the potential offered by the territory.

A study from WEST Inc. (see footnote (A1) below) finds that the said population has remained stable (20,000) in the period 2006-2009. But we have reasons for doubt :
1) - the period is too short to be statistically significant for trend detection.
2) - the survey was done from an aircraft, which is hardly a guarantee of accuracy. 176 eagles were detected over the entire Western United States. Then this number was extrapolated to produce a result of ca.20,000 eagles, using "estimated densities". Someone on the raptor conservation forum said this was "more guesswork than science". - We concur.
3) - The authors of the report, WEST Inc., are much like Natural Research Ltd in Scotland : consultants whose survival largely depends on a steady flow of funds from the wind industry. In fact, the industry likes them so much that most of their contracts regarding research on birds and windfarms are awarded to them. Could it be because, unlike some other studies shown in this Annex, theirs invariably find that wind farms have little or no effect on bird populations ?

In reality, it is likely that the golden eagle population of the Western United States is being negatively affected by mortality at Altamont Pass and at other wind farms ( we don´t hear about those because they are being poorly monitored or not at all ). This is confirmed by the diminishing abundance of young eagles in the APWRA. Says the present study (Dr Smallwood et al. 2009) : " Differences in detections over the last decade included an apparent 56 percent decrease in golden eagles. "

An earlier report by G. Hunt (2002) had led us to believe that the eagle population was not being affected. But it is only the local breeding population that had remained stable. In a critique published in 2003 (8), I pointed out that this was caused by the recruitment of "floaters" from the abundant flux coming into Altamont Pass, and that the negative effect of the wind farm on eagle populations would be felt elsewhere in the Western US. My critical analysis was later vindicated by Hunt and Hunt (2006) quoted above : "more eagles are killed by turbine blade strikes than can be produced by the “local” studied population of 58 pairs."

This large wind farm is thus recognised as affecting bird populations, not just individuals. But there are many others that do, and even more so in terms of cumulative effect, something environmental statements conveniently ignore.

Another quote from the Smallwood et al study under review :"...the APWRA will likely continue to serve as a population “sink” for golden eagles for the foreseeable future."

Altamont Pass is the only wind farm in the United States that has been conscientiously monitored for the past 10 years, and less thoroughly in the decade before that. It is likely that there are in the US other such wind farms acting as population sinks where eagles and other raptors disappear year after year, but we don´t hear about them because they are not being monitored ( or only during one year, and by the wrong consultants ). This absence of news from other wind farms allows the wind industry to build wind farms just about anywhere, including in the habitat of the rare, reintroduced California Condor.

More quotes :
"Golden eagles are especially susceptible to turbine collisions on multiple slope settings and appear to ignore operating turbines."

The above invalidates the often-made claim that birds avoid getting close to operating wind turbines.

"The strongest (flight) pattern was the use of ridge crests and hill peaks of slopes facing south and southwest, which were principal wind directions in the study area. Raptors used these relatively small areas for most of their foraging flights, such as hovering and kiting.

... Raptors are thus keying in on the same topographic features that also provide ideal conditions for placement of wind turbines. "

Raptors and wind farms, evidently, are on a collision course.

"Golden eagles were often recorded gliding or contouring over these locations, relying on the declivity winds to power their flights and on surprise of prey items as they crested ridges and hills."

That´s one more reason for golden eagles to favour hill-tops and ridges.

“Golden eagles flew within 25 m of turbines about 4.5 times more often other than expected when they were not operating, but also about 3.2 times more often than expected when they were operating.”

“Smallwood and Thelander (2004, 2005) reported that raptors fly disproportionately close to wind turbines, flying within 50 meters of wind turbines between seven and ten times more often than expected by chance.

“Golden eagles perched within 25 m of operating turbines 6.5 times more often other than expected”

“All raptors as a group were observed perching on or within 25m of turbines between four and seven times more often than expected...”

This, plus the high raptor mortality scientifically recorded at wind farms, are conclusive evidence that wind turbines appear to be attracting raptors. This may be explained by the findings of Dr. Smallwood regarding slopes and ridges facing prevailing winds : they create declivity winds which attract raptors, enabling them to hover or hang suspended in flight like a kite. Unfortunately, wind farm developers are also attracted to the same windy slopes and ridges, to maximise profit.

There may be additional factors attracting raptors close to wind turbines :

- scavenging : raptors get close to the turbines looking for birds killed or maimed by the blades,
- rodents abound under the turbines because they find it easy to dig burrows in the soil that has been softened by earth-moving equipment, and they find a suitable food supply (weeds) in the open fields around wind turbines : LINK to picture (http://www.iberica2000.org/documents/cottontail_Altamont.doc)
- because this is where the wind blows strongest (micro -siting of the turbines), which makes for effortless gliding, hovering, kiting, and for easy take-offs,
- because they are the best, or the only perching sites around : see pictures ---> red-tailed hawk perched on nacelle (http://www.iberica2000.org/documents/eolica/photos/red_tailed_hawk_perched_on_nacelle.jpg ) and ---> raptor perched on blade (http://www.iberica2000.org/documents/eolica/photos/blade_perching.jpg)
and this video : Who´s afraid of the moving blades?
- because wind farms are surrounded by land that has been cleared of vegetation, and most raptors are looking for open spaces where they can see their prey and manoeuvre to grab it.
- curiosity,
- or a combination of these factors.

Studies routinely under-estimate mortality:

"In conventional scavenger removal trials, all the bird carcasses are set out at once, which can overwhelm scavengers with more carcasses than can be consumed before they rot. To avoid this “scavenger swamping,” the research team distributed carcasses a few at a time, a rate assumed to be more typical of deposition by wind turbines. Carcass removal was much faster than previously documented."

"It is possible that trace evidence is often found by searchers in wind farms but not recorded because it does not meet the operating definition of a fatality. If this is happening, then mortality estimates are likely biased low."

" Overall bird mortality was 160% higher, and overall raptor mortality was 200% higher, than estimates based on scavenger removal rates using conventional methods."

The 3 quotes above evidence the gross under-estimation of bird mortality in even the most objective monitoring reports published to-date.

" ...the crippled golden eagle that was recovered on the Souza parcel could not be used in the mortality estimates because it was not known whether it was stuck by Howden or Nordtank wind turbines. The true mortality rates would be larger yet if crippling bias could be accounted for. "

That´s yet another cause of under-reporting mortality at wind farms.


Significant quotes :


" Esto supone que en España podrían morir entre 19.000 y un millón de aves por año al colisionar con los aerogeneradores."

Translation : "This means that, in Spain, between 19,000 and 1,000,000 birds could be dying yearly from colliding with wind turbines."

Based on the Lekuona report and its average mortality rate of 20 birds/turbine/year, our own rough estimate in 2003 was of 320,000 birds yearly : ---> LINK (http://www.iberica2000.org/Es/Articulo.asp?Id=1223)
We now know that it is likely to be higher by 50% or more, considering the under-reporting evidenced by the study of Dr. Smallwood analysed above. And it is higher still because more turbines were installed since 2003. So we may have reached 1 million yearly casualties by now.


" Se ha podido comprobar la ocultación de cadáveres por parte de trabajadores de los parques eólicos, tal vez pensando que su puesto de trabajo dependa de las aves que mueren en el parque, disminuyendo la tasa de mortalidad obtenida en los planes de vigilancia."

Translation : " It has been ascertained that bird carcasses have been hidden by wind farm workers, thinking perhaps that their jobs depend upon the birds that die in the wind farm. This reduces the mortality observed by searchers in monitoring programmes."

We had denounced this cheat factor in May 2006 : --->LINK (http://www.iberica2000.org/Es/Articulo.asp?Id=2968)
and in various earlier articles.


"En la mayoría de los casos publicados no se evalúa regionalmente el impacto, de alguna forma se fracciona la evaluación sin tener en cuenta otros parques eólicos próximos."

Translation : " In the majority of cases the impact is not assessed regionally, but is somehow divided in fractions without taking into account other wind farms nearby."

This is the "salami slicing" approach, the lack of assessment of the all-important cumulative effect, which we denounced in September 2004 : ---> LINK (http://www.iberica2000.org/Es/Articulo.asp?Id=1875)


"82 proyectos se encontraban a menos de 10 km de espacios de la Red Natura 2000 declarados por aves o murciélagos, y que por lo tanto pueden afectar a los valores de los mismos y a la integridad y coherencia de la Red."

Translation : " 82 (windfarm) projects were located less than 10 km away from Special Protection Areas for birds or bats, and for this reason may impact their interests and the integrity and coherence of the (Natura 2000) Network."

It is clear that the Spanish Ornithological Society is concerned that wind farms may impact SPAs even if built outside their borders. This is in sharp contrast with what is being done in the EU, where wind farms are built adjacent to SPAs or to IBAs, sometimes even within them ( e.g. Pentland Road in Scotland, Almudaina and Álfaro in Spain, etc. ).

SEO/Birdlife also recognises the importance of considering eagle dispersion areas when assessing the impact of a wind farm : " ...es necesario tener en cuenta otros factores que pueden condicionar la delimitación de las áreas de afección... :
• Áreas de dispersión de grandes rapaces
• etc..."

Translation : "...it is necessary to take into account other factors that may determine the limits of impact areas... :
Dispersion areas of large raptors
• etc...."

On this account, the Edinbane and Ben Aketil projects on the Isle of Skye (Scotland) should never have been approved, being as they are in a notorious eagle "dispersion area". Circa 200 eagles will die on those hills, yet we fought hard to stop these ill-sited, dangerous projects whose own developers recognise willl kill eagles. Let the record show that the European Commission has been uncooperative as far as we are concerned. We were not impressed either by the timid objection from the RSPB, even if they maintained it till the end. It was nowhere as convincing as the opposition they put up against the Lewis Wind application, which involved the media and had become necessary as a face-saver after the publication of Red Energy ---> LINK (http://www.iberica2000.org/Es/Articulo.asp?Id=1227) .

Other points of interest in the SEO/Birdlife study are the following:

- wind farms located less than 15 km from eagle nesting sites may have a negative impact on the resident eagles.

- wind farms located less than 50 km from vulture colonies may have a negative impact on these large birds.

- wind farms located less than 15 km from wetlands may have a negative impact on the birds that use them ( this includes, of course, migrating species ).

In Scotland, Mr Ogilvie refused to tell us what the SNH policy was (in fact we think they have none) concerning setbacks from eagle nesting sites. We knew of a wind farm project (Monan) as close as 1 km from an eagle´s eyrie, itself located within a bordering SPA. So we fought against Mr Ogilvie´s refusal to reply on the important subject of minimum distances from eagle nesting sites in Scotland. I was banned from the Raptor Conservation Yahoo Group as a result - let the record show that the Worldwide Working Group on Birds of Prey, which owns that forum, shows little sympathy for whistle blowing conservationists, but plenty for supporters of the wind industry like Mr Ogilvie. So do the owners of Bird Forum, UK Birdnet, and Wind Turbines Birds, who also expelled me for like reasons. The wind industry knows how to use its dominant position as the main provider of funds for ornithology research. Threatened bird life has few defenders in such a context.

The Monan project was subsequently abandoned, but there are other wind farm projects that are too close to eagles´ eyries : “Although there were records for over 500 wind farm proposals at various stages of development, relatively few coincided with eagle territories (ca. 4% of territories had a proposal within 3 km of territory centre).” - Alan H. Fielding et al. (2006). Let´s do the numbers : four per cent of 500 equals 20 wind farms closer than 3 km from eagles´ nests. Yet SEO/Birdlife sees possible negative effects (death by collision) as far as 15 km. Moreover, the Fielding report doesn´t tell how many projects are located between 3 and 15 km from eagles´nesting sites. It is a well kept secret. There could easily be 100 such projects, and their effects on the Scottish eagle population would be disastrous.


" Hay indicios que sugieren que la mortalidad de aves en los parques eólicos se correlaciona positivamente con la densidad de aves (Everaert, 2003)."

Translation : "There is evidence suggesting that bird mortality at windfarms positively correlates to bird abundance".

The above conclusion from biologist Everaert is corroborated by 2 studies from California :

" Raptor mortality at wind farm sites is correlated with raptor abundance and the proximity of habitat to a wind farm site (Orloff 1992)" : ---> see footnote (A2) below.

" It appears, based on the research reports reviewed for this project, that when comparing wind energy facilities birds tend to be killed at rates that are proportional to their relative abundance among wind farms." (A3).

These concurring conclusions from 3 different studies seem to be contradicted by the title of the De Lucas et al. report below (H) : “Collision Fatality Of Raptors In Wind Farms Does Not Depend On Raptor Abundance”. But we have reasons to be suspicious of the objectivity of that report :

- Titles of scientific reports normally state the scope of the study ( see the titles of the reports quoted in this paper ). This one states a conclusion, suggesting that perhaps it was the whole purpose of the study to demonstrate just that. In itself, it may not be a problem, but it raises two questions : 1) was it not in the financial interest of the sponsors to “prove” that raptor abundance is not an issue when choosing wind farm locations ? and 2) weren´t the researchers influenced by the need to please their sponsors so as to obtain more contracts to study wind farms and birds in the future ? These questions are not inappropriate, for experience tells us that most studies involving birds and wind farms are biased in favour of their sponsors, who are either public institutions (e.g. SNH), or wind farm developers. Few consultants are willing to bite the hand that feeds them.

- it is significant that in 2003 Manuela de Lucas and two of her co-authors produced what appears to be a report biased in favour of the wind industry (A4), which I criticised here : LINK (http://www.iberica2000.org/Es/Articulo.asp?Id=1905)

- As for the third co-author, he signed a report on Scottish golden eagles and wind farms which in our opinion is significantly misleading. I wrote about it here : LINK (http://www.iberica2000.org/Es/Articulo.asp?Id=3426) ( see section 1 - Reasoning like poachers ).

As we have been demonstrating throughout our campaign to save the eagles, much of the science concerning wind farms is unreliable. The De Lucas report on raptor abundance is yet another case in point, for it stands to reason that bird abundance around a wind farm is one of the factors bearing on the number of collisions ( no birds, no collisions ). But "proving" the opposite may help getting approved wind farm projects in SPAs and IBAs in the Hebrides islands, in Extremadura (Spain) and in the best bird habitats all over Europe. Pseudo science is all that our decision makers need, unfortunately, for in politics appearances trump reality.

Conscientious conservationists, however, will note that raptor abundance has been found to be a factor of mortality by Orloff in 1992, Everaert in 2003, and Smallwood & Thelander in 2004 as mentioned above. The present report from SEO/Birdlife also confirms that bird abundance is a factor : if not, why be concerned about wind farms located near wetlands, eagle nest sites, or vulture colonies (see below) ? Even the NABU report ("C" below) specifically recommends : "avoidance of locations with high occurrence of birds of prey". ( NABU is to Germany what the RSPB is to the UK ).

Confirming these 5 reports, and further invalidating De Lucas et al., there are indications that the decline in GE mortality at the Altamont is related to a decline in abundance ( about 50% in each case - see the section EAGLES ARE PRONE TO BE KILLED BY WIND TURBINES in the text of our complaint ). Therefore, unless valid evidence to the contrary is brought forward, we can assert that raptor mortality DOES correlate to raptor abundance (among other factors). Besides, we know of important raptor mortality at wind farms where raptors abound (Altamont, Navarre, Smola, Gotland, Woolnorth, etc.). This is why it is reckless, even criminal in terms of biodiversity, to build wind farms in the Hebrides, in Argyll, in Extremadura, in Gredos, or in any other breeding strongholds for eagles in the European Union.

Conservationists, planners, and biodiversity watchdogs in the European Commission ought to be wary of junk-science reports. They need to exercise their critical eye, bearing in mind the source of the funding and the financial interest of the authors.


" Birds were at high risks at wind farms close to wetlands where gulls were the most common victims and at wind farms on mountain ridges (USA, Spain), where many raptors were killed. Wind farms in or close to forests posed high collision risks for bats. For both birds and bats, the collision risk increased with increasing size of the wind turbine."

This invalidates the old mantra about new and bigger tubular turbines being harmless to birds ( as opposed to the smaller lattice towers of Altamont Pass ).

The report recommends : "...avoidance of locations with high occurrence of birds of prey ( mountain ridges, area with high densities of prey )"

In Scotland and in many other countries, the exact opposite is being done, because wilderness areas attract promoters : cheap land, few neighbours to oppose their projects, maximum profits on windy ridges where raptors like to fly.

Another recommendation from NABU : "...avoidance of habitat fragmentation by wind farms (wind farm should not fragment coherent habitats)."

These recommendations actually support our request for the creation of CWEZs.


"...population sizes and, therefore, time to extinction significantly decreased when wind-farm mortality was included in models."

The authors recognise what we have been claiming for years : wind farms will contribute to the extinction of some bird (and bat) species.


"For the first time on 12.09.2008, an adult male Lesser Spotted Eagle was found dead after collision with a wind turbine."

Read : " for the first time as far as we know ". For people finding dead eagles do not necessarily report them to the authorities. There is a market for eagle feathers, talons and skulls - illegal of course, but the bottom line is that an eagle´s carcass is worth money. Scavengers are another source of statistical inaccuracy, as are windfarm employees. At a wind farm in Aragon (Spain) the remains of 2 vultures have been found in a plastic bag halfway unearthed by scavengers. The hiding of bird carcasses by wind farm employees has been confirmed by SEO/Spanish Birdlife - see (B) above.

Dr Meyburg continues :

Sub-title : " Wind turbines - a new permanent danger.
The number of victims at wind farms is undoubtedly higher than officially known. The plans to greatly increase the numbers of these installations in Brandenburg and elsewhere can only be viewed with the greatest concern as far as the Lesser Spotted Eagle is concerned. Wind farms in the USA claim thousands of victims annually. As with the help of ST studies it is now known that the
Lesser Spotted Eagles birds have a much greater home range than previously believed, the protective belt around known nest sites of 3 or 6 km only partly helps to solve the problem. Moreover, even these minimum stand-off distances are often not respected"

This shows that, in Germany, there is a setback of 3 to 6 km around eagles´ nest sites, and that it isn´t ample enough. In Scotland, there is none whatsoever, and this will cause many eagles to die.


"This provides the first evidence for consistent and significant effects of wind farms on a range of upland bird species, emphasizing the need for a strategic approach to ensure such development avoids areas with high densities of potentially vulnerable species."

This is not being done - not by the Scottish government, not by the Spanish government and, as far as we know, not by the EU. Some may be going through the motions as a matter of appearances, but if they meant it really, wind farms would not be built in the Hebrides and other "areas with high densities of potentially vulnerable species".

G) - ADVERSE IMPACTS OF WIND POWER GENERATION ON COLLISION BEHAVIOUR OF BIRDS AND ANTI-PREDATOR BEHAVIOUR OF SQUIRRELS - a Departamento de Ciências Exactas e do Ambiente (CERNAS), ESAC – Instituto Politécnico de Coimbra, Bencanta, 3040-316 Coimbra, Portugal (2008) : ---> LINK

" wind farms kill millions of birds yearly around the world, and the high mortality of rare raptors is of particular concern. "

We have been claiming this for years, to the European Commission, to the media, on www.Iberica2000.org, on bird forums... The response has been to ignore, or sometimes to "kill the messenger" by banning us from ornithology forums. Now, many ornithologists are beginning to realise how right we were, and how disastrous wind farms can be for bird life.


" New wind installations and/or repowering of older wind farms with griffon vulture populations nearby, should avoid turbines on the top of hills with gentle slopes."

The contrary is being done in the EU. A great many wind farm projects are targeting "tops of hills with gentle slopes" where they will kill griffon vultures ( Spain, Greece ) as well as other raptors that depend on declivity winds to get lift ( such as eagles and other raptors in Spain, Scotland, France, etc. ).

But there is more to this study than meets the eye. Although we concur with the above quote, the title of the study is significantly misleading. Five other studies from leading authors and/or bird societies say just the opposite, and their findings are confirmed by mortality statistics from around the world - see our comments on raptor abundance ( "B" SEO/Birdlife report above ).


(A1) - RESULTS OF THE 2009 SURVEY OF GOLDEN EAGLES (AQUILA CHRYSAETOS) IN THE WESTERN UNITED STATES - Western EcoSystems Technology, Inc. ( WEST Inc.) - contract #201818C027 with U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.


(A3) - DEVELOPING METHODS TO REDUCE BIRD MORTALITY IN THE ALTAMONT PASS WIND RESOURCE AREA - California Energy Commission, K. Shawn Smallwood & Carl G. Thelander (August 2004) : ---> LINK

(A4) - THE EFFECTS OF A WIND FARM ON BIRDS IN A MIGRATION POINT: THE STRAIT OF GIBRALTAR - Manuela De Lucas, Guyonne F.E. Janss and Miguel Ferrer (January 2003) : ---> LINK


>> Autor: Mark Duchamp (14/01/2010)
>> Fuente: Mark Duchamp

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