Rangeland Ecology & Management

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Effects of rangeland management and wind power on greater prairie-chickens in eastern Kansas.
Brett Sandercock
Virginia Winder
Lyla Hunt
Lance McNew
Andrew Gregory
Samantha Wisely
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We investigated impacts of rangeland management and wind power on the demographic performance of Greater Prairie-Chickens in eastern Kansas. We used habitat conditions and exposure to turbines to test for impacts on male lek attendance, and the reproductive success and survival of females. In a 6-year period, we monitored 23 lek sites, 251 radio-marked females, and 264 nesting attempts. Habitat and lek size had the strongest effects on lek attendance: leks in native grasslands with > 10 males had the highest probability of persistence. Development had a weak effect on lek attendance: probability of lek persistence increased with distance from turbines, and most abandoned leks were <5 km from turbines. Reproductive output of prairie chickens was limited by high rates of nest failure and losses to predation, but was not affected by distance to turbine. The strongest correlate of nest survival was vegetative cover at nest sites, which was determined by prescribed fire and grazing intensity. Most female mortality was due to predation and losses to collisions or harvest were rare. Unexpectedly, female survival increased after wind power development, possibly because turbines disrupted foraging by raptors. We are currently investigating benefits of patch-burn grazing for prairie chickens and other sensitive species of grassland songbirds. Nesting densities are higher in areas rested from fire but concealment benefits of improved nesting cover do not have a large effect on nest survival. Patch-burn grazing is promising for rangeland management because it has been adopted by some private landowners in Kansas.

Additional Information
Brett Sandercock, Virginia Winder, Lyla Hunt, Lance McNew, Andrew Gregory, Samantha Wisely --- Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas, USA