Response of raptors to a windfarm

Authors


Correspondence author. E-mail: julesgarvin@hotmail.com

Summary

1. The global growth of wind energy has outpaced our assessment of possible impacts on wildlife. There is a pressing need for studies with pre- and post-construction data to determine whether wind facilities will have detrimental effects on susceptible avian groups such as raptors.

2. A pre- and post-construction study was conducted to determine the impact of a windfarm on the abundance and behaviour of raptors in Wisconsin, USA. Variation in abundance and behaviour was examined both within and among years and relative to selected spatial, temporal and weather covariates. Raptor avoidance rates and indices of collision risk were calculated.

3. Raptor abundance post-construction was reduced by 47% compared to pre-construction levels. Flight behaviour varied by species, but most individuals remained at a distance of at least 100 m from turbines and above the height of the rotor zone.

4. Turkey vultures Cathartes aura and red-tailed hawks Buteo jamaicensis displayed high-risk flight behaviours more often than all other raptor species, but also showed signs of avoidance. Red-tailed hawks were the only raptor species found dead beneath turbines during mortality searches. There were few observed mortalities and corrected mortality estimates were comparable to those from other windfarm studies.

5.Synthesis and applications. The decline in raptor abundance post-construction together with other lines of evidence suggests some displacement from the windfarm project area. While certain species may be at risk, flight behaviour data and mortality estimates indicate that the majority of raptors may not be directly affected by the presence of turbines. The avoidance rates recorded in this study should be used to improve collision risk models, and both current and future windfarms should investigate avoidance behaviour post-construction.

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