With only 1300 Black Harriers left in the world, this raptor is Southern Africa’s scarcest endemic bird of prey, moving from Vulnerable to the Endangered list almost a decade ago.
“This beautiful bird of prey is only found in Southern Africa and is in more danger of extinction than the Black Rhino, which has over 6 000 remaining individuals, compared to the Black Harrier’s population that comprises fewer than 1000 mature breeding birds demonstrating the urgent need for conservation efforts,” explained Marli Schoeman, ESG and Biodiversity Manager at Jeffreys Bay Wind Farm.
Conservation efforts, led by Jeffreys Bay Wind Farm and its conservation partners in the Kouga region, are working to increase awareness and reverse the current trajectory that shows that this this beautiful bird is likely to go extinct within 75 years if nothing is done.
Raptors play an important biological role in the control of rodent agricultural pests and other small mammals, an important consideration over and above the services that these birds provide to our greater natural environment.
The Black Harrier nests on the ground, and it only breeds in indigenous natural vegetation, preferring fynbos and renosterveld. Vast areas of natural fynbos have been cultivated for crops and the Harrier’s breeding habitat has shrunk to tiny remnants. Other impacts are human disturbance, poisoning by agrochemicals and pesticides, and poorly placed electricity powerlines or wind turbines.
“The coastal fynbos plains around Jeffreys Bay are ideal Black Harrier habitat, here we find important breeding, roosting, and foraging areas essential to the survival of their population. Most of this habitat is located on privately-owned land, and private landowners can therefore play an important role in conserving the local Black Harrier population,” added Schoeman.
To increase awareness, the Black Harrier Conservation campaign is sharing information with landowners:
This programme forms part of the wind farm’s overarching biodiversity efforts, focused on achieving net gains to critical biodiversity impacted by its operations. Having set up a Biodiversity Advisory Committee three years ago, which includes bird specialists, environmentalists and wind farm employees, Jeffreys Bay Wind Farm continues to push its biodiversity agenda.
2022 saw the wind farm commence with its second bird conservation trial following a successful pilot study. Known as an Observer Led Shut Down on Demand (OLSDOD) programme, it is aimed at mitigating the loss of priority bird species on the wind farm.
In addition to Black Harriers, there are two other endangered bird species (Martial Eagle and African Marsh-Harrier) on the priority list, as well as five other lesser-threatened species, namely: Lanner Falcon; Secretary Bird; Blue Crane; White Bellied Korhaan; Lanner Falcon; and the Denham’s Bustard.