Wind energy is a rapidly expanding industry with potential indirect effects to wildlife populations that are largely unexplored. In 2011 and 2012, we monitored 211 nests of 2 grassland songbirds, Horned Lark (Eremophila alpestris) and McCown's Longspur (Rhynchophanes mccownii), at 3 wind farms and 2 undeveloped reference sites in Wyoming, USA. We evaluated several indices of reproductive investment and success: clutch size, size-adjusted nestling mass, daily nest survival rate, and number of fledglings. We compared reproductive success between wind farms and undeveloped sites and modeled reproductive success within wind farms as a function of wind energy infrastructure and habitat. Size-adjusted nestling mass of Horned Lark was weakly negatively related to turbine density. In 2011, nest survival of Horned Lark decreased 55% as turbine density increased from 10 to 39 within 2 km of the nest. In 2012, however, nest survival of Horned Lark was best predicted by the combination of vegetation height, distance to shrub edge, and turbine density, with survival increasing weakly with increasing vegetation height. McCown's Longspur nest survival was weakly positively related to vegetation density at the nest site when considered with the amount of grassland habitat in the neighborhood and turbine density within 1 km of the nest. Habitat and distance to infrastructure did not explain clutch size or number of fledglings for either species, or size-adjusted nestling mass for McCown's Longspur. Our results suggest that the influence of wind energy infrastructure varies temporally and by species, even among species using similar habitats. Turbine density was repeatedly the most informative measure of wind energy development. Turbine density could influence wildlife responses to wind energy production and may become increasingly important to consider as development continues in areas with high-quality wind resources.
Reproductive success of Horned Lark and McCown's Longspur in relation to wind energy infrastructure
Title: Reproductive success of Horned Lark and McCown's Longspur in relation to wind energy infrastructure
May 01, 2016
Publisher: Cooper Ornithological Society
Mahoney, A.; Chalfoun, A. (2016). Reproductive success of Horned Lark and McCown's Longspur in relation to wind energy infrastructure. Condor, 118(2), 360-375.