Evaluating the Use of Autonomous Recording Units for Monitoring Northern Bobwhite Coveys

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2019-12
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Windschitl, Elke
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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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Northern bobwhite fall distribution is monitored annually as part of the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative. Typically, fall monitoring is done by point count surveys of bobwhite covey calls, but this is logistically difficult. Autonomous Recording Units (ARUs) are increasingly being used to record avian acoustics and estimate bird abundances. Here, we evaluate the use of ARUs to monitor coveys by addressing three critical questions. First, we played recorded calls to an array of ARUs to evaluate whether units detected calling coveys. Second, we paired ARUs with human observers during point count surveys to compare abundance and ARU metrics. Third, we evaluated processing methods to determine whether they were non biased and efficient between processors. Detectability of calls on ARUs decreased as distance increased to 575 meters, but never dropped below 60%. Field observers and ARU processors had nearly the same estimates of occupancy supporting that ARUs accurately detected when a covey called. Finally, we observed minimal processor bias in covey detection and found a shorter survey window yielded consistent results. Our work demonstrates that application of ARUs for monitoring northern bobwhites has some promise for occupancy and efficiency but has limitations compared to abundance metrics derived from human observers.
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