Via DC Birding Blog
a recently released seven year study undertaken by a team of researchers from Kansas State University and financed by a broad array of stakeholders found that wind turbine presence did not strongly affect the nesting success of Greater Prairie-Chickens in a study plot in Kansas. The critical factor impacting the chickens was, as one might expect, the quality of the habitat and the loss of native vegetation cover.
The findings, published this week in is perhaps not too surprising, but it does potentially pave the way towards mitigation strategies that could improve the habitat for prairie-chickens around wind turbine sites, which, strangely enough may offer some small advantages for the nesting birds.
The results are somewhat surprising, especially because similar studies have shown that oil and gas development affect prairie chickens, [Professor of Biology and lead researcher Brett] Sandercock said. With wind power development, the researchers had the unexpected result of female survival rates increasing after wind turbines were installed, potentially because wind turbines may keep predators away from nest sites. Female mortality rates are highest during the breeding season because females are more focused on protecting clutches than avoiding predators, Sandercock said.
"What's quite typical for these birds is most of the demographic losses are driven by predation. We can say that with confidence," Sandercock said. "What's a little unclear from our results is whether that increase in female survivorship was due to the effects of wind turbines on predators."
More work remains to be done, particularly looking at burning and grazing strategies that may provide better quality habitat for these birds, but perhaps we'll see the start of some effective wind energy guidelines, at least on the vast middle of the continent, in the wake of this report.
More information is available on Science Daily.