COS 83-1 - Greater Prairie-Chicken breeding and movement ecology in the context of acoustics from wind energy facilities 

Wednesday, August 9, 2017: 8:00 AM
B110-111, Oregon Convention Center
Edward J. Raynor1, Cara E. Whalen1, Jocelyn A. Olney Harrison1, Jennifer A. Smith2, Mary Bomberger Brown1 and Larkin A. Powell1, (1)School of Natural Resources, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, NE, (2)Department of Biological Sciences, Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University, Blacksburg, VA

Anthropogenic-noise generated by energy development can have detrimental impacts on wildlife populations. Expansion of wind energy development in the Great Plains, USA has given rise to concerns regarding prairie grouse. Behavioral studies that incorporate the acoustic habitat surrounding wind energy facilities may provide critical information for conservation efforts because wind turbine blades produce sounds at low frequencies similar to the boom chorus produced by lekking prairie grouse. We studied the behavior of Greater Prairie-Chickens (Tympanuchus cupido pinnatus) to determine if wind energy facilities impact the acoustic and grassland resources needed for survival and reproduction. We investigated potential effects of noise generated by a wind energy facility on prairie chickens’ lekking behavior and space use in the Nebraska Sandhills. To determine if lek attendance is impacted by wind energy facility noise, we established an audio recording grid at 10 leks located along a 24-km anthropogenic noise gradient leading away from the wind energy facility to describe potential variation in the propagation of the males’ boom chorus. To understand how prairie-chickens select space, we used telemetry to monitor females during the breeding season along the gradient.


Analysis of recordings of the male boom chorus emanating from leks along the gradient indicated the power (dB) of this vocalization was adjusted near the wind energy facility, likely to compensate for wind turbine noise. We posit the probability of a female being present on a lek increases as the spatial extent of the audible male boom chorus (ha) across the landscape increases. This hypothesis was supported for predicting female presence on a lek. The density of roads near leks explained 61% of the variation in the decline in the spatial extent of the audible boom chorus (ha). Female home range area was similar near versus far from the wind energy facility (50% volume contour: P = 0.10; 99% volume contour: P = 0.23). Distance to wind turbine was not a significant driver of female prairie-chicken space use (Resource Utilization Function; β = -0.004± 0.07 SE). Our results suggest that prairie-chicken space use and movement is not influenced by the presence of a wind energy facility, however our acoustic data suggests noise affects breeding behaviors at leks within the acoustic footprint of a wind energy facility. These results emphasize the importance of assessing the effects of wind energy facilities on prairie grouse in relation to not only landscape structure, but also the acoustic landscape.