NINA's bird radar at Lista Bird Observatory in Agder.
NINA's bird radar at Lista Bird Observatory in Agder.
Photo: NINA /Anna Nilsson
NINA's bird radar at Lista Bird Observatory in Agder.

New bird radar will improve coexistence between birds and offshore wind

NorthWind partner NINA installed a new radar system to map bird movements and reduce the impact of offshore wind turbines on migratory birds. The radar, stationed at Lista Bird Observatory in Agder, tracks bird movements up to ten kilometers away and aims to identify the main migration routes along the coastline.

The radar system is the second of its kind in Norway and will be used to study bird migration patterns during spring and autumn. By understanding these patterns, researchers hope to minimise interactions between migratory birds and wind turbines. The radar will also help identify critical resting spots for birds along migration routes, which should ideally be avoided when constructing wind power facilities.

Offshore wind turbines pose a dual threat to migratory birds: potential collisions with the turbines and the creation of a barrier that forces birds to fly around, using extra energy. Roel May, deputy leader of NorthWind’s WP5, senior researcher at NINA and project leader of Knowledge-building projet VisAviS, emphasises the importance of gathering accurate data on bird migration patterns. “While it is known that millions of birds migrate along the coast, the exact locations and timings are still unclear,” he says.

The knowledge gained from this project is expected to benefit both authorities and the wind power industry. Lista Bird Observatory, with its unique position along the Norwegian coastline, serves as an ideal location for monitoring bird migration. The site has recorded around 340 bird species, making it the most diverse in the country.

The other bird radar in Norway is located at Utsira in the North Sea. The project also gets data from a radar installed by Equinor to observe bird movements at the floating offshore wind farm Hywind Tampen. The radars can’t identify specific bird species but register “tracks”, which can be confirmed by on-site observers.

The project, funded by the Research Council of Norway and the offshore wind industry, has a budget of NOK 20 million (EUR 1.7 million) and will map and record bird migration for two years during spring and autumn. Lista Bird Observatory has been observing birds for 33 years and will carry out ground verification of the birds detected by the radar. Identifying the bird species is crucial as some of them might be on the red list of threatened species.