Backyard Chirper

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Some birds don’t look straight while flying

In an article published today in Ibis: The International Journal of Aviation Science, scientists say that birds don’t look where they’re going while flying.

A few weeks ago I looked at the dangers wind farms pose to bird in flight, but this may have new implications on how to make turbines and other man-made objects bird-friendly.

According to scientists, it seems that many birds simply don’t look straight when airborne. Instead, their evolution has taught them to look down at the ground for prey or side to side.

The birds most susceptible to virtually sightless flight are birds of prey and large sea birds. This gives some insight into why the wind farm in Altamont Pass in California has the highest bird mortality rates among wind farms. The location is prime nesting ground for raptors, which include those eagles that look down when flying.

While one of the criteria laid out by the American Bird Conservancy for bird-safe wind power is to construct it away from raptor nesting grounds, this finding may shed new light on how to prevent birds from hitting man-made structures.

In an article in The Telegraph, the author of the study said that people have wrongly been looking at the problem from a human perspective and not taking into account a bird’s actual perspective:

“Armed with this understanding of bird perception we can better consider solutions to the problem of collisions,” he said. “While solutions may have to be considered on a species by species basis, where collision incidents are high it may be more effective to divert or distract birds from their flight path rather than attempt to make the hazard more conspicuous.”

Simply making objects more visible will not be enough to deter birds of prey from flying into objects. Instead, he says that decoy prey on the ground just below turbines or loud noises warning the bird will be much better. However, this could be another problem seeing how many people already dislike wind farms because they are loud.

Timothy Martinez Jr. is a writer and freelance journalist. His work has been published in The Times-Picayune in New Orleans, Remapping Debate in New York City and other publications. He’s been a bird lover since he was young and currently lives in New Orleans, L.A.