SEABIRDS alter course to avoid colliding with offshore wind farms, a new study has found.

Most manage to avoid the marine turbine sites, the study suggests, with 99 per cent changing their flight path in order to avoid crashing mid-air.

However, the researchers said it was still unclear what effect the developments have on some vulnerable species and it was important for planners not to "get lulled into a false sense of security by these figures".

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Dr Aonghais Cook, research ecologist at British Trust for Ornithology, who led the study, said: "It is important not to get lulled into a false sense of security by these figures.

"Whilst 99 per cent of birds may avoid turbines, collision may still be a significant risk at sites with large numbers of birds. Furthermore, there are still a number of key gaps in knowledge for some vulnerable species."

The British Trust for Ornithology and the University of Highlands and Islands' Environmental Research Institute in Thurso did the study, which was carried out on behalf of Scottish Government body Marine Scotland Science.

The BTO says that when planning offshore wind farms, it is important to derive "robust estimates"of the number of birds likely to collide with turbines in order to help the decision making process.

While most birds will take action to avoid colliding, a proportion will not.

A significant proportion of gannets will avoid even entering a wind farm, however, gulls are much less cautious and may even be attracted to the sites as a result of the foraging opportunities they offer.

Despite this, once inside the wind farms even gulls seem to show a strong avoidance of the turbine blades.

"While there are still significant gaps in our knowledge of bird behaviour within offshore wind farms, this work represents a major step forward, helping to ensure decisions are based on the best available evidence," said the BTO.