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Grassland Breeding Bird Surveys for Renewable Energy Development

TRC’s support of renewable energy development spans many departments and sectors


Due to the exposure-dependent nature of solar energy production, many utility-scale solar energy projects are sited in open fields and grassland utilized as habitat by a suite of avian species. In New York State, eight grassland bird species are listed as endangered, threatened or special concern, including the Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus), Northern Harrier (Circus hudsonius) and Upland Sandpiper (Bartramia longicauda). Renewable energy development corporations consult TRC annually to perform grassland breeding bird surveys (BBS), which help determine the presence and site use by state-listed grassland bird species during the breeding season.

TRC avian specialists are tasked with these surveys to determine the extent to which state-listed grassland birds are present within and using a project site to meet essential life cycle needs (i.e., foraging, nesting, cover). These surveys are vital to helping inform avoidance, minimization and/or mitigation strategies in accordance with state regulations.


TRC’s avian specialists follow a comprehensive BBS protocol to support project development and achieve the following objectives:

  • Document presence and use of state-listed species
  • Summarize and map use of the Project Area by state-listed species
  • Characterize the breeding bird community present within grassland habitat in the Project Area


For eight weeks out of the summer, surveyors woke up before sunrise to drive to survey sites across New York State and spent their mornings counting birds. During the 2022 breeding bird season, surveyors:

  • Completed work at six different projects
  • Recorded over 17,000 observations
  • Spotted over 125 different species of birds

TRC’s experienced biologists utilize avian survey resources to meet client needs annually, and to assist with the planning, permitting and licensing requirements of renewable development. TRC staff uses BBS survey results to advise the client, draw case-by-case conclusions regarding project impacts and determine whether more comprehensive studies are necessary to adequately assess potential negative impacts to endangered or threatened grassland nesting bird species.

TRC provides avian services like breeding bird surveys as part of a broad range of environmental assessments to support renewable energy development in the State of New York and beyond.

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