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Wintering Sandhill Crane exposure to wind energy development in the central and southern Great Plains, USA

April 21, 2016

Numerous wind energy projects have been constructed in the central and southern Great Plains, USA, the main wintering area for midcontinental Sandhill Cranes (Grus canadensis). In an initial assessment of the potential risks of wind towers to cranes, we estimated spatial overlap, investigated potential avoidance behavior, and determined the habitat associations of cranes. We used data from cranes marked with platform transmitting terminals (PTTs) with and without global positioning system (GPS) capabilities. We estimated the wintering distributions of PTT-marked cranes prior to the construction of wind towers, which we compared with current tower locations. Based on this analysis, we found 7% spatial overlap between the distributions of cranes and towers. When we looked at individually marked cranes, we found that 52% would have occurred within 10 km of a tower at some point during winter. Using data from cranes marked after tower construction, we found a potential indication of avoidance behavior, whereby GPS-marked cranes generally used areas slightly more distant from existing wind towers than would be expected by chance. Results from a habitat selection model suggested that distances between crane locations and towers may have been driven more by habitat selection than by avoidance, as most wind towers were constructed in locations not often selected by wintering cranes. Our findings of modest regional overlap and that few towers have been placed in preferred crane habitat suggest that the current distribution of wind towers may be of low risk to the continued persistence of wintering midcontinental Sandhill Cranes in the central and southern Great Plains.

Publication Year 2016
Title Wintering Sandhill Crane exposure to wind energy development in the central and southern Great Plains, USA
DOI 10.1650/CONDOR-15-99.1
Authors Aaron T. Pearse, David A. Brandt, Gary Krapu
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title The Condor
Index ID 70170459
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center