Shifting to renewable energy sources has been widely touted as one of the best ways to fight climate change, but even renewable energy can have a downside, as in the case of wind turbines' effects on bird populations.
In a new paper in The Condor: Ornithological Applications, a group of researchers demonstrate the impact that one wind energy development in Kansas has had on Greater Prairie-Chickens (Tympanuchus cupido) breeding in the area.
Virginia Winder of Benedictine College, Andrew Gregory of Bowling Green State University, Lance McNew of Montana State University, and Brett Sandercock of Kansas State University monitored prairie-chicken leks, or mating sites, before and after turbine construction and found that leks within eight kilometers of turbines were more likely to be abandoned.
Leks are sites at which male prairie-chickens gather each spring to perform mating displays and attract females. The researchers visited 23 leks during the five-year study to observe how many male birds were present and to record the body mass of trapped males. After wind turbine construction, they found an increased rate of lek abandonment at sites within eight kilometers of the turbines as well as a slight decrease in male body mass. Lek abandonment was also more likely at sites where there were seven or fewer males and at sites located in agricultural fields instead of natural grasslands.