And What About The Birds?

A report from Jane Grant

Birds and the Rail Tie Wind Project


The Ferruginous hawk is listed as “threatened” and has extensive feeding, breeding, nesting and roosting areas in the Rail Tie location.  Degradation will endanger its local survival.

It is well documented by conservation organizations that wind farms pose a significant threat to birds – especially raptors and migratory birds.  Most organizations recommend that wind farms should not be located in important local feeding, breeding and roosting areas of vulnerable birds.

In the area of the proposed Rail Tie Wind Project the following species of raptors have been recorded on E-bird (Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology’s online database of bird observations): Golden eagle, Sharp-shinned hawk, Northern goshawk, Cooper’s hawk, Bald Eagle, Red-tailed hawk, Rough-legged hawk, and Ferruginous hawk.  Some of these – including the Bald eagle and Ferruginous hawk – are listed as Species of Concern (level 1, conservation action) by USFW in the Rail Tie area.  All will be adversely affected by wind turbines, but the Ferruginous hawk is of particular note in this locality.

The Ferruginous hawk, Buteo regalis, is a partial migrant.  It breeds throughout Wyoming, but it is a year round resident only in the south east corner of the state.  There is significant movement and activity by these birds in the Rail Tie location.  Unusually for hawks these birds will spend time on the ground and sometimes even nest there.  They would be affected not only by striking the turbine blades in flight, but also by ground disturbance during and after the construction phase.

Populations are declining and the Ferruginous hawk is listed as “threatened” in the neighboring states of Colorado and Montana as well as in Canada.  Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology states of this species that “the rapid growth of wind energy development presents a major area of uncertainty regarding fatalities and displacement from habitat, and will require long-term studies to understand potential impacts.”

Ferruginous hawks have been observed by local residents on numerous occasions and a local breeding population was observed and photographed in September 2019.  This observation has been reported to E-bird.  The local breeding – and indeed the year round – population of this hawk could be significantly negatively affected if this project goes ahead.