Potential wind-energy development in the eastern Rocky Mountain foothills of British Columbia, Canada, raises concerns due to its overlap with a golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) migration corridor. The Dokie 1 Wind Energy Project is the first development in this area and stands as a model for other projects in the area because of regional consistency in topographic orientation and weather patterns. We visually tracked golden eagles over three fall migration seasons (2009–2011), one pre- and two post-construction, to document eagle flight behaviour in relation to a ridge-top wind energy development. We estimated three-dimensional positions of eagles in space as they migrated through our study site. Flight tracks were then incorporated into GIS to ascertain flight altitudes for eagles that flew over the ridge-top area (or turbine string). Individual flight paths were designated to a category of collision-risk based on flight altitude (e.g. flights within rotor-swept height; ≤150 m above ground) and wind speed (winds sufficient for the spinning of turbines; >6.8 km/h at ground level). Eagles were less likely to fly over the ridge-top area within rotor-swept height (risk zone) as wind speed increased, but were more likely to make such crosses under headwinds and tailwinds compared to western crosswinds. Most importantly, we observed a smaller proportion of flights within the risk zone at wind speeds sufficient for the spinning of turbines (higher-risk flights) during post-construction compared to pre-construction, suggesting that eagles showed detection and avoidance of turbines during migration.
Increased Flight Altitudes among Migrating Golden Eagles Suggest Turbine Avoidance at a Rocky Mountain Wind Installation
Title: Increased Flight Altitudes among Migrating Golden Eagles Suggest Turbine Avoidance at a Rocky Mountain Wind Installation
March 26, 2014
Journal: Plos One
Publisher: Plos One
Johnston, N.; Bradley, J.; Otter, K. (2014). Increased Flight Altitudes among Migrating Golden Eagles Suggest Turbine Avoidance at a Rocky Mountain Wind Installation. Plos One, 9(3), 1-9.