Wind Turbine Noise Causes Greater Prairie Chicken Run
Ardman Animation’s Chicken Run is a rollicking remake of WWII POW breakout favourite, The Great Escape. The tale takes place in the ‘Stalag’ of Tweedy’s Farm – minus the machine gun towers and jackboots – and comes with a feathery twist; and from a feminist perspective.
Ginger, along with her band of intrepid inmates – and a little swashbuckling help from her beau, Rocky the Rhode Island Red, plots an early exit to avoid Mrs Tweedy’s dreaded pie-maker.
In their efforts to avoid a date with a dismal destiny (and gallons of gravy) the hens crack on and build an improbable flying contraption, designed to vault the barbed wire and spirit them to freedom.
All hopes are pinned on Fowler – an ageing rooster with military pretensions, who tuts, struts and sounds every bit the RAF officer he claims to be. But when the time comes to fly the coop, Fowler’s anticipated prowess as pilot is found wanting:
Ginger: But you’re supposed to be up there – you’re the pilot.
Fowler: Don’t be ridiculous. I can’t fly this contraption.
Ginger: Back in your day? The Royal Air Force?
Fowler: 644 Squadron, Poultry Division – we were the mascots.
Ginger: You mean you never actually *flew* the plane?
Fowler: Good heavens, no! I’m a chicken! The Royal Air Force doesn’t let chickens behind the controls of a complex aircraft.
Needless to say, the ladies’ pluck, dash and derring-do prevails on Fowler, who faster that you can say “tally-ho, chocks away”, has the clumsy-craft airborne, on its way to exodus, and all on-board flying like poultry in motion.
Now, to another story of chickens out to escape their tormentors – not malevolent manufacturers with automated pie-machines – this time it’s Greater Prairie Chickens fleeing the sonic torture of giant fans speared into the hills of Kansas.
Vulnerable grassland birds abandon mating sites near wind turbines
May 7, 2015
Shifting to renewable energy sources has been widely touted as one of the best ways to fight climate change, but even renewable energy can have a downside, as in the case of wind turbines’ effects on bird populations.
In a new paper in The Condor: Ornithological Applications, a group of researchers demonstrate the impact that one wind energy development in Kansas has had on Greater Prairie-Chickens (Tympanuchus cupido) breeding in the area.
Virginia Winder of Benedictine College, Andrew Gregory of Bowling Green State University, Lance McNew of Montana State University, and Brett Sandercock of Kansas State University monitored prairie-chicken leks, or mating sites, before and after turbine construction and found that leks within eight kilometers of turbines were more likely to be abandoned.
Leks are sites at which male prairie-chickens gather each spring to perform mating displays and attract females. The researchers visited 23 leks during the five-year study to observe how many male birds were present and to record the body mass of trapped males.
After wind turbine construction, they found an increased rate of lek abandonment at sites within eight kilometers of the turbines as well as a slight decrease in male body mass. Lek abandonment was also more likely at sites where there were seven or fewer males and at sites located in agricultural fields instead of natural grasslands.
This paper is the latest in a series of studies on the effects of wind energy development on prairie-chickens. “To me, what is most interesting about our results is that we are now able to start putting different pieces of our larger project together to better understand the response of Greater Prairie-Chickens to wind energy development at our field site,” says study co-author Virginia Winder. “We have found that both male and female prairie-chickens have negative behavioral responses to wind energy development.
The data we collected to monitor this response have also allowed us new insights into the ecology of this species. For example, lek persistence at our study site depended not only on distance to turbine, but also male numbers and habitat.”
The findings of this study reinforce the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recommendation that no new wind energy development should be done within an eight-kilometer buffer around active lek sites. “It is critical to have rigorous evaluations of direct and indirect effects of wind energy facilities on species such as prairie-chickens,” according to grassland wildlife management expert Larkin Powell, who was not involved with the research. “The potential for trade-offs between renewable energy and wildlife populations on the landscape is one of the key questions of our day.”
The full paper is available here:http://www.aoucospubs.org/doi/full/10.1650/CONDOR-14-98.1
Sure, it’s possible that these plucky little Kansan ground dwellers aren’t happy with the impact on the aesthetics of their neighbourhood, from hundreds of whirling wonders towering over 160m in height.
However, the fact that these birds have voted with their feet – abandoning their nesting sites within 8 km of the turbines – and, after 5 years, still refuse to return to them – suggests that their distaste isn’t driven by disdain for the hideous look of these things.
That birds – unused to communicating in English – should take flight in order to avoid the daily torment thrown up by these things suggests forces at work way beyond the wind industry’s favoured “nocebo” defence.
The Prairie Chicken’s self-imposed 8 km turbine exclusion zone has an eerily familiar ring to it. It’s the same sort of distance from turbines that has humans – living within that range – troubled by incessant infrasound invading their homes, causing sleep disturbance and otherwise annoying the hell out of them (unless they too, like the Prairie Chickens of Kansas, haven’t already left their homes for good).
At Waterloo in South Australia, Professor Colin Hansen and his team from Adelaide University found turbine generated low-frequency noise and infrasound annoying families in homes out to 8.7 km from turbines:
While it could be that Greater Prairie Chickens have cut and run from wind turbines because they’re “climate denying, anti-wind, wing-nuts”; or that they’re part of a BIG COAL backed conspiracy, the more plausible explanation is that these feathered little fellas just can’t stand incessant turbine generated low-frequency noise and infrasound.
No doubt the wind industry, its parasites and spruikers will invent some tale in an effort to explain the great Prairie Chicken Run. In the meantime, wherever fans get speared, it’s every chicken for themselves.