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IfAÖ’s Department of Ornithology is based in Hamburg and Rostock and focuses on the study of biological diversity and ecology of birds. Against the backdrop of offshore and onshore anthropogenic environmental change, the institute determines number, occurrence and distribution of birds, utilizing modern standardized methods of observation.

A focal point is the detection of bird migration over the North and Baltic Seas to assess the risk of bird strikes with offshore wind turbines. Since the majority of birds migrate at night, RADAR and IR camera systems such as Bird Scan and VARS, specifically development by this department, are utilized.

Bird surveys and bird strike monitoring

  • Staging bird counts and migratory bird detection in the marine environment according to StUK4 (BSH 2013)
  • Onshore territory mapping, taxonomy mapping, and grid mapping
  • Standardized bird strike monitoring
  • Development and maintenance of databases, GIS-based analysis, cartography
  • Interpretation of monitoring results
  • Creation of expert opinions
  • Population assessments and impact predictions in the context of environmental impact studies

Development and application of innovative remote sensing techniques for quantification of migratory birds in the vicinity of wind turbines

  •  Collision risk assessment utilizing VARS camera system
  • Determination of migratory ratios with the BirdScan bird radar
  • Creation of scientific reports

Development and application of aerial-based methods for the detection of seabirds: Digital Aerial Imagery System by IfAÖ (DAISI)

  • Flight planning, image acquisition
  • Image analysis, data archiving
  • Taxonomy
  • Interpretation of results


Independent, science-based information can provide a significant contribution to the acceptance of renewable energy in a rapidly changing world. The research by IfAÖ is dedicated to methodological and scientific progress in the understanding of the impacts of renewable energy technologies on the marine environment.

In ornithological sector, the department is currently focusing on the development and implementation of innovative remote sensing techniques for the automatic detection and quantification of migratory and staging birds in the vicinity of offshore wind turbines. From the offshore research platforms FINO 1 and FINO 2 (CRANE), long-term recordings using the specially-designed bird radar and the VARS camera system are being performed. The resulting data can be used to effectively inform decision-makers and investors on the environmental impact of major projects in the energy sector. This leads to a significant improvement of planning and permiting procedures.

In co-operation with the University of Rostock, we are also developing a standard method for the quantification of seabirds on the basis of high-resolution digital aerial images.

The PROGRESS cluster project created the basis for a universal method for the assessment of collision risks of birds of prey and other terrestrial species with onshore wind turbines. The method is currently being used during the planning process of a wind farm.

As part of the CRANE project, the behavior of migratory birds within an existing offshore wind farm in the south-western Baltic Sea is being investigated from the research platform FINO 2. Several automatic detection methods are being used.