Rapid expansion of the wind energy industry has raised concerns about the potential effects of anthropogenic disturbance on prairie grouse. While efforts have been made to address the effects of wind energy facilities on measures of fitness, their effect on the behaviors of prairie grouse has been largely neglected. To address these concerns, we investigated the effects of an existing wind energy facility in Nebraska that became operational in 2005 on the lekking behavior of male greater prairie‐chickens Tympanuchus cupido pinnatus between March and May 2013. Given the potential for disturbance caused by wind turbine noise to disrupt acoustic communication and thus behavior, we predicted that males at leks close to, compared to far from, the wind energy facility would spend more time in agonistic behaviors, and less in booming displays. Given the potential for wind turbine noise to reduce the number of females attending leks (hereafter ‘female lek attendance’), we also predicted that males at leks close to the wind energy facility would spend more time in non‐breeding behaviors and less time in breeding behaviors than males farther from the facility. Although we found no effect of the wind energy facility on female lek attendance, males at leks closer to the wind energy facility spent less time in non‐breeding behaviors than those at leks farther away. However, distance from the wind energy facility had no effect on time spent performing booming displays, flutter jumps, or in agonistic behaviors. Given that lekking behaviors of males influence mating success, our results may have consequences for the fitness of prairie grouse breeding in the vicinity of wind energy facilities.
Indirect Effects of an Existing Wind Energy Facility on Lekking Behavior of Greater Prairie-Chickens
Title: Indirect Effects of an Existing Wind Energy Facility on Lekking Behavior of Greater Prairie-Chickens
March 11, 2016
Publisher: Wiley Online Library
Smith, J.; Whalen, C.; Brown, M.; Powell, L.; Ebensperger, L. (2016). Indirect Effects of an Existing Wind Energy Facility on Lekking Behavior of Greater Prairie-Chickens. Ethology, 122(5), 419-429.