Interaction between Energy Development and Raptors

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Energy production has become essential for modern society. At the same time, this process can have negative effects on wildlife and ecosystems. It is in the best interest of society and the environment to understand these effects and to manage and mitigate for them. Our team focuses on measuring how energy development influences birds of prey and learning how to minimize negative influences.

Eagles in California

Golden eagle populations in North America face a number of threats. In California in particular, they are listed as a species of concern by numerous state and federal agencies. Renewable energy production has the potential to impact eagles at all stages of their life history. This has been demonstrated at multiple California wind energy plants and there is worry about the risk to birds from solar energy production.

Our research addresses questions related to habitat use, home range, and population dynamics of golden eagles. Much of this research focuses on data from GPS-GSM telemetry systems evaluated within a Geographic Information System (GIS) to address questions linked to eagle movement. To date, we have tracked eagles in the Mojave Desert, at Tehachapi, and in northeastern California. The data we collect will also be used to build risk models to understand how renewable energy development can be best managed to reduce risk to eagles from turbines and solar fields.

This research is funded by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and the State of California, Department of Fish and Wildlife and is in collaboration with biologists from West Virginia University and a number of other groups.

Birds of Prey in the Central Appalachian Mountains

Wind power is among the fastest growing alternative energy sources currently available, and the mid-Atlantic region is a primary focus for wind power development. This area is also home to the eastern population of North America's golden eagles. This population is small, geographically separate, and potentially genetically distinct from western populations. These birds breed in northeastern Canada and winter in the southern Appalachians, and spring and fall migration is along the Appalachian corridor.

The goal of this project is to develop high-resolution spatial data of migration corridors of and habitat use by eastern golden eagles in regions of high potential for wind development. Because golden eagles are an important "umbrella" species for other birds, especially other raptors, this project allows for wind development to occur while also protecting a suite of potentially impacted species. Region-wide maps of relative risk of development of wind power to eagles allow us to make specific recommendations regarding siting of new wind farms and operation of existing wind farms.

This research is funded by Pennsylvania State Wildlife Grants through the Pennsylvania Game Commission, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, the Ministère des l’ Énergie et des Ressources naturelles Quebec, the U.S. Department of Energy, and several other sources.