These guidelines summarise the current state of knowledge with regards to the potential effects of wind energy on Verreauxs’ Eagle, and outline the steps necessary to ensure that negative effects are adequately assessed and minimised.
Verreauxs’ Eagle has been listed as regionally Vulnerable in the latest Eskom Red Data Book of Birds of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland (Taylor et al. 2015). There is evidence to suggest that this species is vulnerable to colliding with wind turbines. Eagles may also be affected by disturbance and displacement related to wind farm activities, particularly around nests. Opportunities to avoid and minimise these impacts lie largely within the planning phase (i.e. before construction).
Where a wind farm is proposed within potentially important Verreauxs’ Eagle habitat, BirdLife South Africa recommends the following:
- Wind turbines should be placed outside of the core territory of eagles to reduce the risk of collisions.
- Areas associated with increased flight activity and/or risky behaviour should also be avoided, for example the edge the escarpment, ridge tops, cliffs, steep slopes and particularly slopes that are perpendicular to the prevailing wind direction.
- Dedicated surveys must be conducted to identify potential nest sites. Cliff-lines should be surveyed for evidence of nesting. These surveys should extend beyond the development footprint to include the likely territory of any pair that may regularly use the site.
- A buffer of 3 km is recommended around all nests (including alternate nests). This is intended to reduce the risk of collisions and disturbance. This is a precautionary buffer and may be reduced (or increased) based on the results of rigorous avifaunal surveys, but nest buffers should never be less than 1.5 km.
- Vantage point surveys should be conducted for a minmum of 72 hours per vantage point per year.
- Fieldwork must include surveys during the breeding season.
- Surveys (including vantage point monitoring) should extend beyond the developable area.
- The relative extent and type of use of the site by eagles must be assessed.
- Steps should be taken to avoid increasing the prey population (and thereby attracting eagles to the wind farm). For example excavated rocks and animal carcasses should be removed.
- If it is suspected that a proposed wind farm may pose a significant risk to Verreauxs’ Eagles, the duration of pre-construction monitoring should be extended to two years, particularly where alternate nests are some distance apart and/or turbines are proposed in areas that may be associated with increased flight activity and/or risky behaviour.
- No construction activities (e.g. new roads) should be allowed within 1 km of nests during the breeding season.
- Nests should be monitored for breeding activity throughout the lifespan of the wind farm (including during construction), but care must be taken to ensure that monitoring activities do not disturb breeding birds.