Date of this Version
Proceedings of the North American Crane Workshop 13: 26
Wind energy is essential for a shift to carbon-emission free energy, however there has been very little research investigating the disturbance caused by wind farms on the landscape. Texas is a leading state in wind power capacity, and the High Plains of Texas support over 80% of the midcontinent population of sandhill cranes (Grus canadensis) every winter. Historically, cranes used saline lakes for fresh water and predator protection, but recent hydrological changes due to agricultural practices have reduced the availability of the lakes for wintering birds. Playa wetlands currently represent the main source of water and roosting habitat in the High Plains. We examined crane occupancy of playa wetlands in 4 counties of Texas during the fall and winters of 2009-10 and 2010-11. In addition to recording presence/no presence, we recorded multiple variables and used information theory and AICc to develop models which best explained crane occupancy. Using occupancy modeling methods to survey playas in Texas resulted in no combination of variables explaining crane presence or absence in playas, most likely because cranes likely move between playas freely on their winter habitat. As playas are a vital part of their winter ecology, sandhill crane use and movement between them should be further examined to better describe crane use of their winter landscape and better plan and manage for large scale habitat alterations, such as the large increase in the number of wind turbines across the High Plains.