Does the noise from wind turbines affect wildlife?

Science writer Stuart Blackman reveals the true impact of wind turbines for wildlife. 

WASHINGTON, UNITED STATES - 2013/06/15: View of the Rosalia Wind Farm near Oaksdale in the Palouse, Washington State, USA. (Photo by Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Turbines are putting the wind up breeding skylarks © Wolfgang Kaehler / Getty

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Despite their obvious green credentials, wind turbines are not without their downsides. They are certainly not good for any bird or bat that happens to fly too close to those spinning blades, for example.

But very little is known about how wildlife is affected by the noise they produce, and a recent study on skylarks suggests this is well worth a closer look. The research found that singing males respond to the low-pitched hum by shifting to higher frequencies. This is similar to the effects of other anthropogenic noise sources such as traffic, which can disrupt bird ‘chatter’ to the point of being detrimental to reproductive success.

As it happens, recent research inspired by the wing design of owls – the masters of silent flight – suggests that turbine noise could be significantly reduced by adding serrations to the leading edges of a turbine’s blades.

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