Collision fatality of raptors in wind farms does not depend on raptor abundance.
The number of wind farms is increasing worldwide. Despite their purported environmental benefits, wind energy developments are not without potential adverse impacts on the environment, and the current pace and scale of development proposals, combined with a poor understanding of their impacts, is a cause for concern. Avian mortality through collision with moving rotor blades is one of the main adverse impacts of wind farms, yet long-term studies are rare. We analyse bird fatalities in relation to bird abundance, and test several factors which have been hypothesized to be associated with bird mortality. Bird abundance was compared with collision fatality records to identify species-specific death risk. Failure time analysis incorporated censored mortality data in which the time of event occurrence (collision) was not known. The analysis was used to test null hypotheses of homogeneity in avian mortality distribution according to several factors. There was no clear relationship between species mortality and species abundance, although all large-bird collision victims were raptors and griffon vulture Gyps fulvus was most frequently killed. Bird mortality and bird abundance varied markedly among seasons, but mortality was not highest in the season with highest bird abundance. Mortality rates of griffon vultures did not differ significantly between years. Bird collision probability depended on species, turbine height (taller=more victims) and elevation above sea level (higher=more victims), implicating species-specific and topographic factors in collision mortality. There was no evidence of an association between collision probability and turbine type or the position of a turbine in a row. Synthesis and applications. Bird abundance and bird mortality through collision with wind turbines were not closely related; this result challenges a frequent assumption of wind-farm assessment studies. Griffon vulture was the most frequently killed species, and species-specific flight behaviour was implicated. Vultures collided more often when uplift wind conditions were poor, such as on gentle slopes, when thermals were weak, and when turbines were taller at higher elevations. New wind installations and/or repowering of older wind farms with griffon vulture populations nearby, should avoid turbines on the top of hills with gentle slopes.