NREL - National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Movement Patterns of White-Tailed Sea Eagles Near Wind Turbines

Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2018
JournalThe Journal of Wildlife Management
IssueEarly View

White‐tailed sea eagles (Haliaeetus albicilla) exhibit one of the highest mortality rates at wind power plants (WPPs) among raptor species in Europe, but data on circumstances of collision and behavioral response to WPPs are scarce. We analyzed the effect of WPPs on movement patterns of sea eagles in Germany with satellite telemetry. We analyzed ranging behavior and environmental parameters that influence the behavioral flight response to WPPs using multiple regression models. During 2003 through 2009 we radio‐tracked 25 white‐tailed sea eagles in northern Germany (8 territorial, 7 non‐territorial, 10 young eagles marked as nestlings). Mean home range sizes of territorial eagles varied with individuals tracked and the estimation method applied, ranging from 2.7 km2 to 669.7 km2. Sex or breeding status did not influence home range size. Ranging behavior varied between individuals and was correlated with habitat quality (i.e., nest distance to nearest water source and to anthropgogenic structure) and weather conditions. Among the 9 territorial eagles, only 1 individual resided within the officially proposed 3‐km minimum safety distance between nest and planned WPP. However, others frequently moved >3 km away from their nests, leaving the proposed safety area. One eagle inhabiting a territory within intensively cultivated landscape frequently approached a WPP and did not alter its movement patterns near the WPP compared to control areas. We identified several features visited by the eagles (e.g., perches, small lakes). To mitigate the collision risk of eagles, the recommended safety radius of 3 km between nest and WPP should become an international standard with a safe flight corridor to feeding grounds. To avoid frequent collisions at the population scale with WPPs, it is important to construct WPPs only outside the main distribution areas of white‐tailed sea eagles. © 2018 The Wildlife Society.

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TagsGermany; Land-Based Wind; White-Tailed Eagle; 2018; Journal Article