Soaring birds depend on atmospheric uplifts and are sensitive to wind energy development. Predictive modelling is instrumental to forecast conflicts between human infrastructures and single species of concern. However, as multiple species often coexist in the same area, we need to overcome the limitations of single species approaches.
We investigate whether predictive models of flight behaviour can be transferred across species boundaries.
We analysed movement data from 57 white storks, Ciconia ciconia, and 27 griffon vultures, Gyps fulvus. We quantified the accuracy of topographic features, correlates of collision risk in soaring birds, in predicting their soaring behaviour, and tested the transferability of the resulting suitability models across species.
59.9% of the total area was predicted to be suitable to vultures only, and 1.2% exclusively to storks. Only 20.5% of the study area was suitable to both species to soar, suggesting the existence of species-specific requirements in the use of the landscape for soaring. Topography alone could accurately predict 75% of the soaring opportunities available to storks across Europe, but was less efficient for vultures (63%). While storks relied on uplift occurrence, vultures relied on uplift quality, needing stronger uplifts to support their higher body mass and wing loading.
Energy landscapes are species-specific and more knowledge is required to accurately predict the behaviour of highly specialised soaring species, such as vultures. Our models provide a base to explore the effects of landscape changes on the flight behaviour of different soaring species. Our results suggest that there is no reliable and responsible way to shortcut risk assessment in areas where multiple species might be at risk by anthropogenic structures.