HawkWatch International (HWI) has been awarded a prestigious Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act (NMBCA) grant to predict over which mountain ridges in the U.S. west raptors may migrate. The project will help ensure that potential new ridge-top developments, such as wind turbines, are situated in low-impact areas to avoid or minimize risk to sensitive species.
“Raptors are more sensitive to landscape development because they have longer life spans and lower reproductive rates,” says HWI Science Director Dr. Markus Mika. “This project will help protect and conserve raptors in the face of often necessary but increased mountain ridge energy development.”
In the U.S. West, raptors often used mountain ridges to aid in their migration, as the wind lift that reflects off the mountainsides helps lift their heavy bodies in flight.
Migration corridors are normally identified by years of standardized counts, where scientists return to the same location year after year and monitor migrating raptors. But the overlap of scarce resources and improved technology has allowed new ways of predicting migration pathways that will complement existing “on-the-ground” data.
By developing predictive models based on its 25+ years of migration data, HWI will produce maps and decision support tools to assist state and federal agencies in their decision-making for renewable energy development placement. These types of predictive models are also potentially of great value in the face of global climate change. They will aid in identifying habitat locations for raptors, including breeding, stopover, and wintering along reliable flyways as the birds adjust their locations due to climate change.
The Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act of 2000 developed a grants program to fund projects that promote conservation of neotropical migratory birds in the U.S., Canada, Latin America, and the Caribbean. “Migratory birds play so many roles in our lives and on the landscape–ecologically, culturally, and economically–and they enhance our connection with our natural world,” said Service Director Dan Ashe. “The grant funds we provide under the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act, matched at least three-to-one by partner dollars, help to bring bird conservation to where it’s most needed, ensuring birds continue to enrich our lives.”
HawkWatch International (HWI) is a Salt Lake City-based nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving the environment through education, long-term monitoring, and scientific research on raptors as indicators of ecosystem health.