Influence of Season and Time of Day on Marsh Bird Detections

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Dinsmore, Stephen
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Harms, Tyler
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Natural Resource Ecology and Management
The Department of Natural Resource Ecology and Management is dedicated to the understanding, effective management, and sustainable use of our renewable natural resources through the land-grant missions of teaching, research, and extension.
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Call-broadcast surveys are frequently used to elicit responses of secretive marsh birds and produce greater detection rates than passive surveys. However, little is known about how detection rates of birds from these surveys differ by season and time of day. We conducted call-broadcast surveys for eight focal species at 56 wetlands throughout Iowa from 15 May–13 June 2010 (early season) and from 15 June–10 July 2010 (late season). Our focal species were Pied-billed Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps), American Bittern (Botaurus lentiginosus), Least Bittern (Ixobrychus exilis), King Rail (Rallus elegans), Virginia Rail (Rallus limicola), Sora (Porzana carolina), Common Gallinule (Gallinula chloropus), and American Coot (Fulica americana). Surveys were conducted in the early morning (30 mins before sunrise to 3 hrs after sunrise) and late evening (3 hrs before sunset to 30 mins after sunset) in accordance with the North American Marsh Bird Monitoring Protocol. We evaluated marsh bird detection rates as a function of a) time of day (morning and evening survey periods), b) season (early and late in the breeding season), and c) wetland size for four species with the greatest detection rates (Pied-billed Grebe, Least Bittern, Virginia Rail, and Sora). We also evaluated the above effects for two species groups; all eight species pooled and all rails pooled. We found significant (P < 0.05) effects on the number of detections for Pied-billed Grebe in response to time of day, time of season, and wetland size; Sora, Virginia Rail, all rails, and all species had an effect of time of season only. Understanding seasonal and time-of-day differences in detection rates, as well as area dependence of secretive marsh birds, will refine existing monitoring protocols by allowing researchers to maximize detection probabilities of target species.


This article is from Wilson Journal of Ornithology 126 (2014): 30, doi:10.1676/13-150.1. Posted with permission.

Wed Jan 01 00:00:00 UTC 2014