Rapid development of wind energy facilities in the Great Plains of North America has raised concerns regarding their potential negative impact on the nesting ecology of Greater Prairie-Chickens (Tympanuchus cupido pinnatus). We investigated the effects of a pre-existing, 36-turbine wind energy facility on nest site selection and nest survival of Greater Prairie-Chickens in the unfragmented grasslands of the Nebraska Sandhills, USA. In 2013 and 2014, we monitored 91 nests along a 24-km disturbance gradient leading away from the wind energy facility. We found little evidence of an effect of the wind energy facility on Greater Prairie-Chicken nest site selection and nest survival. Instead, we found that the primary drivers of nest site selection and nest survival were related to landscape and habitat factors. Greater Prairie-Chickens avoided nesting near roads, with 74% of Greater Prairie-Chickens selecting nest sites >700 m from roads. Greater Prairie-Chickens selected nest sites with more than twice the visual obstruction and residual standing dead vegetation of random points. Our results suggest that small wind energy facilities, such as the facility in our study, may have little effect on Greater Prairie-Chicken nest site selection and nest survival. We suggest that livestock grazing and other grassland management practices still have the most important regional effects on Great Prairie-Chickens, but we caution future planners of wind energy facilities to account for the potential negative effect of roads on nest site selection.
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