A new unique project in northern Sweden involves trapping adult Golden Eagles and fitting them with satellite transmitters in an attempt to see whether large-scale wind farms may have a negative effect them.
Scientists at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) are fitting satellite transmitters which emit a signal once an hour during the daytime enabling scientists to form a picture of how the birds use the landscape. So far transmitters have been fitted on to six eagles and the aim is to track 20 adult eagles from ten territories, five where wind farms are planned and five without wind farms.
“Hopefully we can identify the Golden Eagles’ favourite habitats. When we’ve done that we can see where wind farms can be established without disturbing the eagles,” says project manager Tim Hipkiss at SLU’s Department of Wildlife, Fish and Environmental Studies.
“Trapping adult golden eagles alive has never been done before in Sweden, and probably nowhere else in Europe. This is unique, and most people thought we wouldn’t succeed.”
Most of the sites are in Västerbotten county in northern Sweden and the project is designed to run for long enough for the scientists to monitor the eagles during wind farm establishment. The assistance of some of the world’s leading experts in bird of prey trapping has been sought, largely from the USA.
The trapping is carried out using carrion bait at feeding sites a few weeks in advance, then concealing a net trap. When the eagle lands on the food, a person in a nearby hide releases the net. Fitting the satellite transmitter takes around half an hour.
The transmitter sits in place like a comfortable backpack and Tim Hipkiss says that the birds have no problems flying with it. Five juvenile Golden Eagles were fitted with transmitters last year and were monitored for several months.
“The juveniles fly as they should, and some have already flown to new hunting grounds tens of kilometres away. Thanks to the transmitters we can find the birds if any of them have any problems, for example have not moved for several days,” says Tim Hipkiss.
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