Smartbirds - understanding how gulls behave through high-tech backpacks

In a bid to understand how the amber-listed Lesser Black-backed Gull behaves around offshore wind farms, DONG Energy has partnered with the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) to carry out a study of the species off the Cumbrian coast.
State-of-the-art GPS tags are being used to track the movements of gulls during the two-year study. It will focus on gulls from a colony at Cumbria Wildlife Trust's South Walney Nature Reserve, where the species is protected but has recently been in decline, and from rooftops in Barrow-in-Furness, where lesser black-backed gulls are often less welcomed by their human neighbours.

The tags, which sit between a bird's wings like a backpack, will allow the BTO researchers to understand many different aspects of these birds' lives around wind farms, including crucially, whether gulls are at risk of death through collision with turbine blades.

Notes to Editors

About DONG Energy:
DONG Energy is the global leader in offshore wind farm development with eight operational wind farms around the UK coast and a further four under construction.

Walney Extension, located 19 kilometres off Walney Island in Cumbria, is a 660-megawatt wind farm which on completion will be capable of meeting the electricity requirement of half a million UK homes. Burbo Bank Extension, under construction 7 kilometres off the North Wirral coast in Liverpool Bay, is a 258-megawatt wind farm which will be able to meet the electricity needs of around 200,000 UK homes.

About the British Trust for Ornithology:
The BTO is an independent charitable research institute combining professional and citizen science aimed at using evidence of change in wildlife populations, particularly birds, to inform the public, opinion-makers and environmental policy and decision-makers. They are a respected voice in nature conservation, known for their impartiality which enables their data and information to be used both by Government and NGO campaigners.

Over 40,000 volunteer birdwatchers and the BTO in partnership with professional research scientists, collect high quality monitoring data on birds and other wildlife.
Allen Risby, Lead Environment and Consents Specialist with DONG Energy, said: "We are keen to learn more about how these gulls behave around offshore wind farms as they fly above, below or between the individual wind turbines. It will also be interesting to see how they interact with the wind farms. They may provide opportunities for the gulls too."

Emily Scragg for the BTO said: "While offshore wind farms are a key weapon in the fight against climate change, it is important to understand potential effects of their development on wildlife in order to minimise any negative impacts. The tagging will enable the BTO to study the flight patterns of these two groups of gulls and offer an unprecedented chance to understand how seabirds respond to the construction of an offshore wind farm, as well as to further understand their movements through the year. I can't wait to see the results".
The study is being jointly funded by the Walney Extension and Burbo Bank Extension projects, two of the offshore wind farms that DONG Energy is currently constructing off the North West coast.

Tagging was undertaken this year during the gulls' summer breeding season and the work has already shown some differences in the use of offshore areas by birds from South Walney and Barrow.
Through the course of the next two years, further fascinating results are expected as the wind farms move from their construction phase through to operation.

For additional information, please contact:

+44 20 7811 5208

For additional information, please contact:

James Platt - Ørsted
+44 20 7811 5519

For additional information, please contact:

Juliette Sanders - Ørsted
+44 20 7811 1181