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Case study

Assessing gull movements in relation to offshore wind farms

In order for the UK government to meet commitments for renewable energy, numerous offshore wind farms are currently under construction or have been proposed. Our understanding, however, of the interaction between offshore wind developments and seabird populations is still incomplete.

Through funding from the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), we investigated the ecology, seasonal migrations and wind farm interactions of Lesser Black-backed Gulls breeding at three protected sites across their annual cycles between 2010 and 2016. This work has revealed seasonal and annual variation in the risks posed to gulls from offshore wind farms (find out here) and on the heights they fly at (find out here).

Offshore movements of one Lesser Black-backed gull through a wind farm area
Google earth, Infoterra Ltd & Bluesky, Image Landsat, Data SIO, NOAA, U.S. Navy, NGA, GEBCO


Extending these studies, we are currently working with DONG Energy to assess how the species responds to the construction of the Walney Extension and Burbo Bank Extension offshore wind farms. Birds from South Walney in the Morecambe Bay SPA are being tracked at a high resolution over several years using state of the art GPS devices produced by the University of Amsterdam, giving unprecedented assessment of how foraging movements may change as wind farm construction progresses. Additionally, using GPS-GSM devices developed by Movetech Telemetry, which enable data to be remotely transferred using the mobile phone network, we are also tracking gulls for this project breeding in nearby urban areas to compare with those from the SPA.

Movement of one tracked Lesser Black-backed gull to wintering grounds in North Africa
Google earth, Image IBCAO, Image Landsat, Data SIO, NOAA, U.S. Navy, NGA, GEBCO