Golden Eagle Flight

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Detailed Description

Golden eagles can be killed by colliding with a number of human-made objects, including wind turbines. USGS research wildlife biologist Todd Katzner describes his studies of golden eagle flight. This research is being done to model flight behavior which might help managers understand how placement of wind turbines might pose significant risks to golden eagles.



Date Taken:

Length: 00:03:19

Location Taken: Mojave Desert, CA, US


Todd Katzner: (Int.)

Golden Eagles are some of the largest raptors in the world.

They have a whole Arctic distribution, which means they’re found all over the northern hemisphere, in Europe and Asia and North America. They have one of the largest distributions of any bird in the world.

I’m Todd Katzner. I work for the USGS Forest and Rangeland Ecosystems Science Center. And I’m a research wildlife biologist.

We’re studying Golden Eagles and the problem that we’re trying to solve is that Golden Eagles can be killed by wind turbines.

Todd Katzner: (live audio) ..and we’re getting some good video of it.

Tony Suffredini: Sounds good

Todd Katzner: (Int.) 

So, what we’re doing is we’re trying to use innovative cutting edge technologies, tracking technologies, to understand how eagles fly. And if we can understand how eagles fly then we can predict when they’re likely to fly in places where there’s going to be wind turbines and when they're likely not to.

So, what we’re doing is we’re using an accelerometer which is a tiny device which measures change in velocity in three different axes.

It takes 200 measurements per second so we get a really detailed understanding of the eagle’s changes in direction and speed. 

We have a falconer who flies the Golden Eagle, our colleague Tony. And Tony has been flying this trained Golden Eagle and we’re collecting this accelerometry data on this trained bird. And that’s going to allow us to build a reference data set to understand the measurements from a wild bird.

Tony Suffredini: (live audio)…Ho…ho…

Todd Katzner: (live audio) …Was there an animal, er?

Tony Suffredini: (live audio)…Yeah, jackrabbit broke to the left there.

Todd Katzner: (Int.)

Tony’s bird is special because we can film it all the time so we have a record of exactly what it was doing and we can then look at the accelerometer and see what measurements we’re getting from it when that bird is flying. And so it’s really important to have a trained eagle that stays put, stays around so we can get that film of it. 

We interpret that accelerometer data and then we’re going to put accelerometers on wild eagles and we’re going to collect the data and we’re going to have the formulas to convert it into behaviors.

So, we’re going to figure out when these eagles are doing flapping flight, when they’re soaring, when they’re high away from the ground, when they're really close to the ground. 

And when we do that we can begin to understand the risk they face from wind energy.