Bird migration routes coincide with high wind potential in Wyoming

Oct 16, 2013

Where exactly do migratory birds stop on their way across Wyoming? A new study answers that question for the first time, with any eye towards discouraging wind development in those places.

Study leader Amy Pocewicz is a landscape ecologist with The Nature Conservancy in Wyoming. She says the results show a lot of potential for conflict.

“Seventy-three percent of those places with good potential for wind energy development have high overlap with important migration areas,” Pocewicz says.

Wind energy’s impact on bird populations, particularly migratory birds, has been a controversial subject as wind power has grown nationwide. There’s no recent data on how many birds are killed in Wyoming every year by turbines, but nationally, estimates are in the hundreds of thousands.

To create the map showing overlap, the study team modeled migration patterns, and then checked the model against on-the-ground observations.

“This could be very easily applied elsewhere, and I think even the exact conceptual models we used might be applicable in neighboring states,” Pocewicz says.

The information about migration patterns could be useful for large-scale planning, particularly by federal agencies.  But Pocewicz adds that it doesn’t negate the need for site-specific studies of individual turbines.