Track: Biology and Behavior (bats, eagles and other species)
GPS Tracking of Eagles and Condors to Inform Siting of Wind Turbines
Presentation Description: Risk of collision by large soaring birds with turbines is an important consideration in siting wind energy. Understanding animal movements, for example of eagles and condors, can form the foundation of informed siting that can reduce collision risk. Our research team has used GPS telemetry to track >250 golden eagles, >150 bald eagles, and >75 California condors within North America. Each of the ~30 million GPS data points collected from these birds is associated not only with location information, but also with data on flight speed, direction and altitude. Here we use these data to illustrate (a) general principles of flight behavior of soaring birds that inform collision risk; (b) a risk model for golden eagles in one region of eastern North America and (c) future directions for this work and data that are available for potential site-specific risk models. Flight behavior of large soaring birds responds strongly to the topography and the weather that the animal experiences. In general, birds fly lower and closer to potential turbines in topographically rougher terrain, in cloudy, humid and windy conditions, and earlier and later in the day. Higher flight altitude, and lower collision risk, is associated with flatter terrain, sunnier conditions, and mid-day periods. These consistent patterns allow us to model effectively the risk birds face from collision with turbines and to predict locations that are both low risk for birds and have high wind speeds. Although these risk maps have, to date, only been built for golden eagles in one area of the central Appalachian region, we are in the process of replicating them for California and eastern Wyoming. Next steps involve analysis of flight behaviors and risk mapping for bald eagles in the upper Midwest.