Soaring Migratory Birds Avoid Wind Farm in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, Southern Mexico

Rafael Villegas-Patraca, Sergio A. Cabrera-Cruz (Corresponding Author), Leonel Herrera-Alsina

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Abstract

The number of wind farms operating in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, southern Mexico, has rapidly increased in recent years; yet, this region serves as a major migration route for various soaring birds, including Turkey Vultures (Cathartes aura) and Swainson's Hawks (Buteo swainsoni). We analyzed the flight trajectories of soaring migrant birds passing the La Venta II wind farm during the two migratory seasons of 2011, to determine whether an avoidance pattern existed or not. We recorded three polar coordinates for the flight path of migrating soaring birds that were detected using marine radar, plotted the flight trajectories and estimated the number of trajectories that intersected the polygon defined by the wind turbines of La Venta II. Finally, we estimated the actual number of intersections per kilometer and compared this value with the null distributions obtained by running 10,000 simulations of our datasets. The observed number of intersections per kilometer fell within or beyond the lower end of the null distributions in the five models proposed for the fall season and in three of the four models proposed for the spring season. Flight trajectories had a non-random distribution around La Venta II, suggesting a strong avoidance pattern during fall and a possible avoidance pattern during spring. We suggest that a nearby ridgeline plays an important role in this pattern, an issue that may be incorporated into strategies to minimize the potential negative impacts of future wind farms on soaring birds. Studies evaluating these issues in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec have not been previously published; hence this work contributes important baseline information about the movement patterns of soaring birds and its relationship to wind farms in the region.

Original languageEnglish
Article number0092462
JournalPloS ONE
Volume9
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 19 Mar 2014

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