Associate Editor: Breck
Can the effect of tall structures on birds be isolated from other aspects of development?
Article first published online: 22 JAN 2014
© The Wildlife Society, 2014
Wildlife Society Bulletin
Volume 38, Issue 2, pages 250–256, June 2014
How to Cite
Walters, K., Kosciuch, K. and Jones, J. (2014), Can the effect of tall structures on birds be isolated from other aspects of development?. Wildlife Society Bulletin, 38: 250–256. doi: 10.1002/wsb.394
- Issue published online: 10 JUN 2014
- Article first published online: 22 JAN 2014
- Manuscript Accepted: 4 SEP 2013
- Manuscript Received: 8 JAN 2013
- energy development;
- tall structure
As technology and energy development increase, undeveloped land and land traditionally used for agriculture now host structures not part of the historical landscape. These structures (e.g., communication towers, transmission lines) are taller than many objects in natural landscapes. Concerns have been raised regarding the effects of tall structures on birds, primarily functional habitat loss due to avoidance. Two hypotheses have been advanced to explain observed patterns of birds near tall structures: increased perceived predation risk and neophobia. We examined the literature (1969–2013) and used a vote-counting methodology to document 1) the reported direction (positive or negative) of a potential tall-structure effect, 2) whether the effect of tall structures can be isolated from other effects of development, 3) whether the study design lent itself to drawing a supportable conclusion, and 4) whether the authors suggested a causal mechanism for any observed pattern. We did not detect any consistent response to tall structures, nor did we find evidence to support the two hypotheses. In addition, a structure's “tallness” could not be isolated from other factors associated with development such as human activity. Understanding causal mechanisms is important for management and conservation because observed effects might not be related to the tallness of the structure but to other factors that could be managed, such as timing of construction. Our results suggest that the effect of tall structures on birds is not well understood, and focused studies that examine before-and-after effects and specific causal mechanisms are needed to support effective project siting and conservation planning. © 2014 The Wildlife Society.