Golden eagles living close to one of Scotland’s first major wind farms are
thriving, according to a pioneering 20-year study.
Monitoring of the protected birds of prey, which nest near the 65-turbine
Beinn an Tuirc wind farm in Argyll, has shown the scheme has had no adverse
impact on their survival and breeding.
A plentiful supply of wild food for eaglets is just one of the reasons the
birds of prey have thrived near the Beinn an Tuirc wind farm
The study began in 1997, ahead of construction of the wind farm, after
scoping work for developer ScottishPower Renewables identified the Kintyre
site as a nesting territory for Scotland’s unofficial national bird.
The energy firm minimised potential risks to the eagles by erecting the
turbines further south than was originally planned and clearing a forestry
plantation to create more favourable moorland habitat to the north.
Work was also done on 1,800 hectares of land to control livestock grazing
and encourage wildlife prey such as red grouse to flourish.
Now senior ecologists have confirmed the pair of golden eagles resident
there are among the most successful breeders in the region and the
100m-high turbines appear to have had no ill effects on their existence.
The same female golden eagle has occupied the Beinn an Tuirc site since
monitoring began, and was joined by her current mate in 2007.
She had laid eggs with a previous mate but none had ever hatched. However,
six chicks have successfully fledged since 2008.
Peter Robson, the energy firm’s senior ecologist, said: “We’ve been able to
demonstrate how you can plan a wind farm in an area where there are
sensitivities. In this case we were able to identify how the golden eagles
used the territory and design the wind farm so it didn’t overlap with that
“The only way they can raise two chicks in a year is if they have an
abundance of food, so our priority was to make sure they had that.
“Our monitoring has confirmed our assumption that they wouldn’t go over the
wind farm. That’s the main learning point from it.
“In the 15 years since the turbines have been operating there have only
been two observed flights of an eagle over the wind farm, and that’s out of
“We’re very confident that the amount of time they spend over the turbines
is incredibly small.”
Conservationists have welcomed the report, pointing out that the research
has provided valuable information that will help understand the impacts of
onshore wind on wildlife and inform the planning process for future
renewable energy projects.
Aedan Smith, head of policy and development for RSPB Scotland, said: “Beinn
an Tuirc has been operating for quite a while now – it’s one of the
longest-running onshore wind farms in Scotland. When it was first proposed
we were initially quite cautious because it was so close to golden eagle
“But ScottishPower Renewables have really shown a lot of commitment to it
from the outset, and did a lot of work to try to create alternative habitat
for the golden eagles, which is really useful, but also implemented this
“But this is also a good illustration of how important it is for companies
to invest in nature conservation when there is likely to be an impact on
the natural environment and ensure that any adverse effects are mitigated.”
He added: “This study is a good example of a wind farm operator taking its
responsibilities to the surrounding wildlife seriously, and we need to see
more long-term studies of this sort taking place at operational wind farms
Ecologist Iain Mackenzie of Natural Research Projects, which carried the
monitoring work for ScottishPower Renewables, said: “This has been a
fascinating project to work on over the last 20 years.
“We’ve learned much about how golden eagles interact with wind farms, and
the project has highlighted how careful planning can allow renewable energy
projects to co-exist positively with upland wildlife.
“Chicks fledged from near the Beinn an Tuirc wind farm are helping to
ensure that these iconic birds continue to occupy the Scottish uplands.”