Great Plains Natural Science Society


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The Prairie Naturalist· 41 (3/4): December 2009, pp 116-120


Two 69-kilovolt powerlines spanning the Platte River in south central Nebraska are suspected to cause substantial mortality to sandhill cranes (Grus canadensis) and pose a threat to endangered whooping cranes (G. americana) that roost overnight on the river during spring and fall migrations. Most studies of crane collisions with powerlines in the region have focused on counts of carcasses away from night roosts on the river and none have accounted for potential biases in detecting carcasses. We found 61 carcasses of sandhill cranes below over-river segments of the two powerlines during 4 March to 7 April 2006 and 90 such carcasses between 5 March and 13 April 2007. In 2007 we estimated the number of carcasses undetected in our surveys due to removal by scavengers, loss to downstream flow, and observer oversight. We estimated between 165 and 219 sandhill cranes were killed by the two powerlines during spring 2007. These cnlculations exclude mortalities from individuals injured by powerline collisions and dying elsewhere, as well as those killed before or after our 5 March to 13 April survey period. We detected no evidence of mortality for whooping cranes during our surveys. Our results corroborate anecdotal evidence of signficant sandhill crane mortality each spring due to collisions with above-ground powerlines at this major night roost. Collisions by sandhill cranes will continue and collisions by Whooping cranes seem likely unless an effective means of averting birds from powerlines is implemented at this site.