Auditory performance in bald eagles and red-tailed hawks: a comparative study of hearing in diurnal raptors

  • JoAnn McGeeEmail author
  • Peggy B. Nelson
  • Julia B. Ponder
  • Jeffrey Marr
  • Patrick Redig
  • Edward J. Walsh
Original Paper


Collision with wind turbines is a conservation concern for eagles with population abundance implications. The development of acoustic alerting technologies to deter eagles from entering hazardous air spaces is a potentially significant mitigation strategy to diminish associated morbidity and mortality risks. As a prelude to the engineering of deterrence technologies, auditory function was assessed in bald eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), as well as in red-tailed hawks (Buteo jamaicensis). Auditory brainstem responses (ABRs) to a comprehensive battery of clicks and tone bursts varying in level and frequency were acquired to evaluate response thresholds, as well as suprathreshold response characteristics of wave I of the ABR, which represents the compound potential of the VIII cranial nerve. Sensitivity curves exhibited an asymmetric convex shape similar to those of other avian species, response latencies decreased exponentially with increasing stimulus level and response amplitudes grew with level in an orderly manner. Both species were responsive to a frequency band at least four octaves wide, with a most sensitive frequency of 2 kHz, and a high-frequency limit of approximately 5.7 kHz in bald eagles and 8 kHz in red-tailed hawks. Findings reported here provide a framework within which acoustic alerting signals might be developed.


Eagles Hawks Hearing Auditory brainstem response Evoked potentials 



Auditory brainstem response


American Wind Energy Association


Analysis of variance


Compound action potential of the auditory nerve


Cochlear nuclei


Decibels sound pressure level referenced to 20 µPa


End-tidal CO2


Hertz (cycles/s)


Interpeak interval


International Union for Conservation of Nature




Dorsolateral mesencephalic nucleus


Unites States Department of Energy


United States Fish and Wildlife Service


United States Government Accountability Office



The authors would like to acknowledge the essential contributions from Drs. Michelle Willette and Dana Franzen-Klein, Lori Arent, Drew Bickford, Andrew Byrne, Jamie Clark, Christopher Feist, Christopher Milliren, and The Raptor Center volunteers. This material is based upon work supported by the US Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) under the Wind Energy—Eagle Impact Minimization Technologies and Field Testing Opportunities, Award Number DE-EE0007881.


This study was funded by the US Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) under the Wind Energy—Eagle Impact Minimization Technologies and Field Testing Opportunities, Award Number DE-EE0007881.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed. All procedures performed in studies involving animals were in accordance with the ethical standards of the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee of the University of Minnesota where the studies were conducted.

Supplementary material

359_2019_1367_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (724 kb)
Tables S1 to S6, and supplemental references (PDF 723 kb)


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© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Speech-Language-Hearing Sciences and the Center for Applied and Translational Sensory ScienceUniversity of MinnesotaMinneapolisUSA
  2. 2.The Raptor Center, College of Veterinary MedicineUniversity of MinnesotaSt. PaulUSA
  3. 3.St. Anthony Falls LaboratoryUniversity of MinnesotaMinneapolisUSA

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