Risk of golden eagle collisions with wind turbines is influenced by the altitude at which the birds fly. Topographic features drive eagle flight because lift is dependent on the slope, aspect, and cover type over which they fly. The USGS is leading an evaluation of the relationship between topography and eagle flight altitude to infer risk to eagles from turbine development in the Mojave Desert, California. Using existing GPS telemetry data that include information on flight altitude, researchers will conduct a new analysis to compare flight height over different landforms and to evaluate how flight altitude varies with slope, aspect, and ground cover. They will also evaluate eagle use of sites with and without winds suitable for wind energy development. Results will help identify characteristics of wind-development sites in the Mojave that may be risky to golden eagles and will aid in development of eagle-safe management plans.
Golden eagle profile (Photo credit: Todd Katzner, USGS). From 2012 to 2013, telemetry data were collected from nine eagles outfitted with a backpack holding a GPS-GSM telemetry system. The telemetry system recorded and stored a GPS location every 15 minutes and sent the locations, via the GSM network or mobile phone, to a server once per day.
Author: Daniel Driscoll, American Eagle Research Institute