Cumbria gulls fitted with GPS tracking 'backpacks'

South Walney nature reserve Image copyright Google
Image caption South Walney nature reserve is near one of the largest wind farms in the world

Gulls are being fitted with tracking systems to see if feeding and flight patterns are disrupted by wind farms.

Birds at South Walney nature reserve in south Cumbria are being fitted with GPS "backpacks" so the British Trust for Ornithology can track their movements.

Walney off-shore wind farm is one of the largest in the world with 102 turbines and plans for a further 200.

Project head Nigel Clark said the research would provide useful information.

"These devices actually record the height the bird is flying at and so we can find out if they could be hit by the turbine blades or if they tend to fly below them or even above them," he said.

The research is funded by the Department for Energy and Climate Change to find out how the birds use the British coast and identify if wind farms cause problems.

The lesser black-backed and herring gulls have been tagged in their nests with devices weighing about half an ounce (15g) attached to a small harness.

A similar experiment by the trust in Suffolk in 2012 revealed surprisingly varied flying habits, with some birds travelling hundreds of miles to Spain, Portugal and Africa and others remaining in East Anglia.

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