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Electric infrastructure poses a significant threat at congregation sites of the globally threatened Steppe Eagle Aquila nipalensis in Saudi Arabia

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  15 June 2021

MOHAMMED SHOBRAK*
Affiliation:
Biology Department, Science College, Taif University, P.O. Box 11099, Taif 21944, Saudi Arabia.
SAHEEM ALASMARI
Affiliation:
National Centre for Wildlife, P.O. Box 61681, Riyadh 11575, Saudi Arabia.
ABDULAZIZ ALQTHAMI
Affiliation:
National Centre for Wildlife, P.O. Box 61681, Riyadh 11575, Saudi Arabia.
FAHAD ALQTHAMI
Affiliation:
National Centre for Wildlife, P.O. Box 61681, Riyadh 11575, Saudi Arabia.
ABDOULRAHMAN AL-OTAIBI
Affiliation:
National Centre for Wildlife, P.O. Box 61681, Riyadh 11575, Saudi Arabia.
MOHAMMAD AL ZOUBI
Affiliation:
Royal Society for Conservation of Nature (RSCN) / BirdLife Jordan, P.O. Box 1215, Jubeiha 11941, Jordan.
LAITH EL MOGHRABI
Affiliation:
BirdLife Middle East, P.O. Box 2295, Amman 11953, Jordan.
SHARIF JBOUR
Affiliation:
BirdLife Middle East, P.O. Box 2295, Amman 11953, Jordan.
NABEGH GHAZAL ASSWAD
Affiliation:
BirdLife Middle East, P.O. Box 2295, Amman 11953, Jordan.
STEFFEN OPPEL
Affiliation:
Royal Society for Protection of Birds (RSPB) / BirdLife UK, RSPB Centre for Conservation Science, The David Attenborough Building, Pembroke Street, Cambridge CB2 3QZ, United Kingdom.
VOLEN ARKUMAREV
Affiliation:
Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds (BSPB) / BirdLife Bulgaria, Yavorov Complex, bl. 71, vh. 4, P.O. Box 50, Sofia 1111, Bulgaria
STOYAN C. NIKOLOV
Affiliation:
Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds (BSPB) / BirdLife Bulgaria, Yavorov Complex, bl. 71, vh. 4, P.O. Box 50, Sofia 1111, Bulgaria
*
*Author for correspondence; email: m.shobrak@tu.edu.sa

Summary

Saudi Arabia is the fastest growing electricity consumer in the Middle East, with a rapidly expanding network of powerlines. Bird mortality through electrocution and collision has been recorded in the country, but so far there is little information as to how much the electricity infrastructure affects globally threatened raptor populations that migrate to Saudi Arabia. In 2019, the world’s largest wintering congregation of Steppe Eagles Aquila nipalensis was discovered near a rubbish dump in central Saudi Arabia. We evaluated whether powerlines in the vicinity of this, and another congregation site, caused mortality of large birds. In November 2019, we surveyed powerlines within 6 km of two focal rubbish dumps at Al Qunfudhah (12.4 km) and Ushaiqer (2 km). We found 52 carcasses of five species, of which 85% were Steppe Eagles. Based on the age of these carcasses, we coarsely extrapolate that 14.4 km of powerlines near these two congregation sites may kill 94–240 Steppe Eagles per winter, representing up to 0.3% of their global population. We call for the urgent safeguarding of powerlines that cause mortality near known Steppe Eagle congregation sites, and the adoption and implementation of regulations that ensure that future infrastructure is constructed with designs that are safe for birds.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
© The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of BirdLife International

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