Wind turbines in California kill golden eagles from over 100 km away

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Golden Eagles

Renewable energy production is expanding rapidly despite mostly unknown environmental effects on wildlife and habitats.

In a recent study, scientists find that in California, wind energy production causes the death of Golden Eagles. The finding is published in Conservation Biology.

Researchers from U.S. Geological Survey, Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, West Virginia University, and Purdue University conducted the study.

They used genetic and stable isotope data collected from golden eagles killed at the Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area in California to analyze the influence of wind energy production on environment.

Based on a bird feather analysis, they found that more than 25% of the killed eagles were recent immigrants to the population, most from long distances away (>100 km).

Data from nuclear genes indicated these immigrant eagles were genetically similar to birds identified as locals. In the face of this mortality, the apparent stability of the local golden eagle population would be maintained by continental-scale immigration.

Researchers suggest that local renewable energy production can have negative effects on the ecosystem and environment. Furthermore, the effects can influence large areas.

Currently, wind energy generators can receive permits that allow a certain number of unintended bird deaths. But if that number is too large, the companies could be fined.

In the future, policies are needed to prevent the harmful effects of wind energy generators on the bird species across the US.

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Citation: Katzner TE, et al. (2016). Golden Eagle fatalities and the continental-scale consequences of local wind-energy generation. Conservation Biology, published online. DOI: 10.1111/cobi.12836.
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