Vulture blind spots lead to collisions with wind turbines

By Ed Yong | March 14, 2012 7:16 am

Here are two facts that make no sense together:

Vultures have among the sharpest eyes of any animal.

Vultures are among the birds most likely to crash into wind turbines and power lines.

If their eyes can spot a tiny carcass from high up in the air, why can’t they see a massive metallic structure looming in front of them? Because they can’t. Vultures, it turns out, have large blind spots above and below their heads. And because they hold their heads at a downwards angle when they fly, they are blind to everything directly in front of them.

I covered this story for Nature News. Head over there to find out why these blind spots exist, and what we can do to prevent vultures crashing into wind farms (featuring “vulture restaurants”).

Photo by M. Mirinha/STRIX

Comments (2)

  1. It goes to show that ANYTHING we do in the world has an impact; even our best intentions for the environment can have casualties. The important thing is to always keep our eyes open and try to reduce the harm without causing even more problems.

  2. Jay Fox

    So if the birds do not see the obstruction because they are looking down, how do we make them look up? What is their hearing like? Do we know?

    Would it be possible to install some kind of sound device that would get their attention? Would they even associate a noise with a threat? Might be a difficult strategy since the birds have no predators, so they are generally fearless. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t investigate it. What we’re doing now (or not doing) isn’t working.

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