Birds & Science

We use the best available science to ensure the survival of Montana's birds and other wildlife.

Kevin Rim Important Bird Area & Rim Rock Wind Farm

Kevin (pronounced Key’ – vin) Rim Important Bird Area (IBA) is known for supporting many nesting raptors. This IBA is located ~ 20 miles northwest of Shelby, Montana. This area has been designated as an Area of Critical Environmental Concern and as a Key Raptor Area by the Bureau of Land Management.

photo courtesy NaturEner

photo courtesy NaturEner

Over the past several years, we’ve been very concerned with location of turbines from the Rim Rock Wind Farm and have had numerous meetings and discussions with the company developing this farm, NaturEner. The Rim Rock Wind Farm became operational on private lands near to, and west of, the Kevin Rim. At our urging NaturEner voluntarily agreed to relocate each of 25 wind turbines to provide a buffer of approximately ½ mile from historic and active raptor nests. This commitment was made after the project design was finalized, financing completed, and construction had begun. In addition, we have entered into an an historic Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with NaturEner which reflects an unprecedented level of cooperation and commitment between a wind energy company and a wildlife conservation organization.

From the Archives

2012 Rim Rock News:

Ferruginous Hawk nest. K DuBois Photo

Ferruginous Hawk nest. K DuBois Photo

Bird Information:

Ten species of raptors have been documented to breed at Kevin Rim, including four species that are of Global (Ferruginous Hawk), Continental (Swainson’s Hawk, Prairie Falcon), or State (Golden Eagle) conservation concern. In addition to these species, the Kevin Rim IBA has also hosted nesting American Kestrels, Red-tailed Hawks, Northern Harriers, Peregrine Falcons, Great-horned Owls, and Burrowing Owls.

The raptor nest locations appearing on the map located below were recorded in studies conducted between 1988 and 2005.

The Landscape:

Kevin Rim is a prominent series of sandstone cliffs and outcrops, associated with steep, eroded hillsides. The rims tower over surrounding grasslands and sagebrush-dominated habitat, ideal areas for hawks to nest on cliff faces, as well as on the ground.

 Kevin Rim Cliff Face. K DuBois Photo

Kevin Rim Cliff Face. K DuBois Photo

Threats to the IBA:

Incubating Ferruginous Hawks are highly sensitive to human disturbance and sometimes abandon their nests if humans approach too closely. Part of this area is being developed for a wind farm and it has numerous oil and gas wells, which pose a threat by: (1) disturbing the prairie habitat upon which raptor prey species depend, and (2) increase the potential for disturbance to nesting hawks.

The Rim Rock Wind Farm:

NaturEner, a Spanish-owned company, is currently placing 126 turbines near the Kevin Rim.

Where wind farm guidelines have been adopted in other states, they recommend avoiding placing turbines near landscape features that attract high numbers of foraging or nesting raptors. The Kevin Rim certainly qualifies as such a site. We hope the 1/2 mile buffer is sufficient to keep this as a hotspot for nesting raptors. We look forward to learning more about raptor response as the project moves forward.

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