The lesser prairie-chicken (Tympanuchus pallidicinctus) is an umbrella species for the short- and mixed-grass prairie ecosystem of the south-central United States. This species has suffered large population declines over the last century that mirror the loss of prairie. Populations have become increasingly fragmented, and habitat connections between populations are being severed. A possible new threat to lesser prairie-chickens is the rapid development of wind-energy facilities throughout their habitat. In addition to contributing to the loss of prairie, these facilities could serve as barriers to movement if birds avoid wind turbines and their associated power transmission lines. We summarize evidence for avoidance behavior in birds, propose connectivity areas between distributional cores, propose strategies for conservation of lesser prairie-chickens, and encourage lawmakers to adopt state and federal regulations on wind-farm placement. Without a concerted effort, lesser prairie-chickens and similar species are likely to disappear, as will the southern prairie on which they depend.
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Vol. 59 • No. 3