Energy and Wildlife: Research


The recent development of energy resources, such as wind, oil, gas, and solar, can potentially affect landscapes in ways that require changes in golden eagle management practices. USGS has partnered with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and industry to increase knowledge of golden eagle population biology, improve eagle surveys and population monitoring, and frame the adaptive management process for eagle take permits.

Food Habits, Prey Availability and Nesting Success of Golden Eagles in the Mojave Desert (video above)

Impacts to golden eagles from wind and solar energy occur primarily through direct mortality from collisions or indirectly, through loss of habitat. Although there are a number of studies that have examined golden eagle food habits, little or no published information exists for food habits of golden eagles or availability of their prey in the Mojave Desert. We assessed food habits, reproductive success and prey availability of nesting golden eagles in the Mojave Desert to inform California and Nevada’s conservation strategy within the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Planning area and in Solar Energy Zones. This new information can be used to help prevent possible conflicts between the loss of important foraging habitat for golden eagles and siting of proposed renewable energy developments.

Power of Prediction: Avian Fatalities at Wind Facilities

USGS, in collaboration with FWS, has released a study that will enable ecologists, managers, policy makers, and industry to predict the bird fatalities at a wind facility prior to it being constructed. The study examined golden eagles as a case study because they are susceptible to collisions with wind turbines in part because of their soaring and hunting behavior. Bird fatalities due to collisions with rotating turbine blades are a leading concern for wildlife and wind facility managers. This new model builds upon previous approaches by directly acknowledging uncertainty inherent in predicting these fatalities. Furthermore, the computer code provided makes it possible for other researchers and managers to readily apply the model to their own data.

Related Publication: A Collision Risk Model to Predict Avian Fatalities at Wind Facilities: An Example Using Golden Eagles, Aquila chrysaetos

Golden Eagles Fly Far and Wide in the Mojave

Golden eagles in the Mojave Desert travel farther, to different areas, and at different times of the year than previously understood, according to research by USGS and partners from other federal agencies, academia and the private sector. Telemetry data were used to determine the overall size of each eagle’s home range, what habitat types were included in the eagle’s home range, and the timing of eagle movements within that home range. The telemetry data documents golden eagle movement with a higher level of accuracy than ever before.

Related Publication: Home in the heat: Dramatic seasonal variation in home range of desert golden eagles informs management for renewable energy development

Lead Scientists

Todd Katzner
Wildlife Biologist
Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center
p: (208) 426-5232

David Wiens
Wildlife Biologist
Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center
p: (541) 750-0961

Michael Runge
Research Ecologist
Patuxent Wildlife Research Center
p: (301) 497-5748


Top Photo: Golden Eagle chick. Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Materna, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.