This project mitigates the impacts of power generation and transmission infrastructure on birds and other biota. Initial attention was focused on collision impacts associated with powerlines, which mainly affect large, open-country birds such as bustards and cranes that are unable to react rapidly when they encounter aerial obstructions. More recently the project has considered the impacts of renewable energy technologies, including wind and solar power generation.

Wind and solar power generation have much less broad-scale environmental impact than the coal-fired power stations on which South Africa relies for most of its power generation, but both technologies can have significant impacts at a local scale. The aim of this programme is to provide practical solutions to reduce the impacts of renewable energy projects, as well as energy transmission infrastructure, on birds in southern Africa. The programme is run in collaboration with BirdLife South Africa’s Birds and Renewable Energy programme, the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) and HawkWatch International.

Activities in 2023

  • PhD student Christie Craig, based at the EWT, completed her thesis on the viability of Blue Crane Anthropoides paradisea populations in the Western Cape and Karoo. Powerline collisions are one of the main threats to Blue Cranes, and assessing the severity of this threat formed the basis of one of the chapters of her thesis. She found that proximity to seasonal wetlands was a useful predictor of collision risk in the Western Cape, which will be useful for planning the routing of new power lines as well as mitigating collision risk by retrospective marking of existing high-risk lines. She also analysed crane movements in relation to powerlines, and showed that non-breeding cranes, which move farther than breeding birds, are at greater risk of collisions. Christie submitted her thesis for examination in February 2024.
  • Robin Colyn made steady progress towards his PhD on the factors determining the distributions of range-restricted larks across an aridity gradient in southern Africa. The Red Lark Certhilauda burra is a species of particular concern, given the large number of wind energy projects planned in the range of this localised, vulnerable species, and the high mortality rate of larks that undertake aerial displays at windfarms.
  • Sanjo Rose obtained her MSc for her study on the ecology of Agulhas Long-billed Larks Certhilauda brevirostris, a little-known species that has numerous wind energy developments planned in its restricted range.
  • CB MSc student Michelle Bouwer completed her research project on factors influencing Blue Crane hatching success in the Overberg, which was initiated following observations of worryingly low chick production estimates arising from Christie’s PhD research.
  • Chris Vennum (ABAX Foundation post-doctoral fellow), together with Arjun Amar and Megan Murgatroyd explored whether turning off wind turbines during the daytime could be used as a mitigation method to reduce the impact of wind energy facilities where these pose a high risk to Verreaux’s Eagles. This work investigated levels of nighttime flights by this species using GPS tracking data.
  • Our research collaboration with HWI on tracking Black Harriers Circus maurus continued to progress, with Megan Murgatroyd and Sanjo Rose managing to deploy tags on seven harriers in 2023. These data will be used to build a risk model to help reduce the impact of wind farms on breeding Black Harriers.
  • Merlyn Nkomo continued her PhD on the interaction between Jackal Buzzards Buteo rufofuscus and wind farms. Merlyn is supervised by Arjun Amar and Meg Murgatroyd with help in the field from Chris Vennum. In 2023, Merlyn deployed a further 2 transmitters onto Jackal Buzzards in the Western Cape. We now have 11 active trackers on this species. Merlyn completed her interviews with stakeholders within the wind energy sector to better understand their research priorities and needs for Jackal Buzzards, and a paper documenting this has been submitted .


  • MSc students Sanjo Rose and Michelle Bouwer both graduated in 2023. 
  • Sanjo Rose’s paper on the breeding biology of the Agulhas Long-billed Lark was published in the Journal of Ornithology.
  • Francisco Cervantes, Arjun Amar, Megan Murgatroyd and collaborators published their paper on the predicted space use of Cape Vultures across their entire global range in the journal Ecological Applications. Additionally, the team worked with the Department for Fisheries, Forestry and the Environment (DFFE) to develop a categorical risk map which was used in the Gazetted protocol for wind energy facilities and vultures.
  • Arjun Amar, Megan Murgatroyd, and Merlyn Nkomo attended the Bird & Renewable Energy Forum, where they presented work on wind farm risk models for Verreaux’s and Martial Eagles, and on the co-production of research priorities for Jackal Buzzards. .

Key co-supporters
Endangered Wildlife Trust – Eskom Strategic Partnership; The Bateleurs; BirdLife South Africa; BTE Renewables; Hans Hoheisen Charitable Trust; Leiden Conservation Fund; Dave Myers; ABAX Foundation; The Shannon Elizabeth Foundation.

Research team 2023
mer. Prof. Peter Ryan (FIAO, UCT)
A/Prof. Arjun Amar (FIAO, UCT)
A/Prof. Robert Thomson (FIAO, UCT)
A/Prof. Susie Cunningham (FIAO, UCT)
Dr Chris Vennum (FIAO, UCT)
Dr Alan Lee (BLSA)
Dr Andrew Jenkins (Avisense)
Dr Megan Murgatroyd (HawkWatch International, FIAO, UCT)
Dr Francisco Cervantes (SEEC, UCT)

Students: Robin Colyn (PhD, UCT); Christie Craig (PhD, UCT); Merlyn Nkomo (PhD, UCT); Sanjo Rose (MSc, UCT), Michelle Bouwer (CB MSc, UCT).