Two hen harriers killed at Perthshire windfarm

21 December 2012

RSPB press release:

RSPB Scotland has today confirmed that an adult male hen harrier was found dead at a Perthshire wind farm, with a second bird found injured three weeks later. Hen harriers are a scarce species that hunt over rough grazings and moorland.

The birds were discovered on separate occasions earlier this Spring, in the same section of the Griffin Wind Farm, near Aberfeldy. The area had been forestry that was clear felled to aid the wind farms construction and operation.

RSPB Scotland is now able to confirm that no further hen harriers appear to have been affected at the windfarm during 2012. RSPB Scotland staff have been working closely with operators SSE to avoid any repeat tragedies. This has included visits to the site and advice to increase post-construction monitoring. This will enable staff to understand how the birds use the site, particularly during the species? display period.

The Griffin Wind farm, comprising 68 turbines, was granted permission in 2009. It was switched on in two phases, starting in March and becoming fully operational in July 2012.

The first hen harrier was discovered by engineers below a turbine on the 18th April, just three weeks later a second male was found unable to take off close to the same turbine. The bird was found to have an injured wing and sadly later died.

Aedan Smith, head of planning and development at RSPB Scotland said : This is a tragic situation and is likely to have had an impact on the local breeding success of this vulnerable species. Sustained persecution has placed the hen harrier under significant pressure, with the raptor teetering on the brink of extinction in England. However, wind farm collisions, the apparent reason for the death of these two birds, remain very rare events indeed.

It is important to remember that climate change still poses one of the biggest threats to birds and other wildlife; thus, appropriately-sited wind farms remain part of a wider range of measures to mitigate this impact. Nonetheless this new information will be used to help evaluate future windfarm proposals. Lessons must be learnt.

This case also highlights the importance of continued monitoring before, during and after a development, so we can ensure such projects can exist without detrimentally affecting our local wildlife.

In relation to the events at the Griffin wind farm at Aberfeldy, our priority now is to keep working with SSE in monitoring and researching the site, and using this information to change the management of the open ground areas so reducing future risks to these vulnerable protected species and reduce the threat of future collisions