Date of this Version
DeVault, T. L., T. W. Seamans, K. E. Linnell, D. W. Sparks, and J. C. Beasley. 2017. Scavenger removal of bird carcasses at simulated wind turbines: Does carcass type matter? Ecosphere 8(11):e01994. 10.1002/ecs2.1994
Wind energy development can negatively impact bird populations due to bird–turbine collisions. To accurately estimate bird mortality at wind farms, the number of dead birds found under turbines is commonly corrected for carcass removal by scavengers, which is quantified by measuring persistence of experimental carcasses through time. These studies often use domestic birds as surrogates because carcasses of wild birds (e.g., raptors) are difficult to obtain. We assessed scavenger removal of carcasses from five bird species at simulated turbines to determine whether domestic surrogates are scavenged at a different rate than raptors, species of interest for wind turbine mortality. The percentage of carcasses scavenged during 14-d rounds ranged from 34.6% for American kestrels (Falco sparverius) to 65.4% for chickens (Gallus gallus), and the percentage of carcasses completely removed ranged from 13.5% for red-tailed hawks (Buteo jamaicensis) to 67.3% for northern bobwhites (Colinus virginianus). Carcass type (i.e., species) was the only predictor included in the best-fit logistic regression model of complete carcass removal, and a survival analysis indicated carcass type influenced elapsed time to scavenging events. Our results suggest the use of surrogate species to quantify carcass removal at wind turbines could lead to inaccurate mortality estimates.