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Keywords:

  • Colinus virginianus;
  • landscape;
  • multi-scale analysis;
  • northern bobwhite;
  • occupancy modeling

Abstract

Predicting species presence requires knowledge of detection of individuals, scale of model variables, model selection uncertainty, and spatial autocorrelation. Our objective was to incorporate recent modeling advances to predict potential habitat occupancy of northern bobwhite (Colinus virginianus). From 15 May–15 August 2008 and 2009, we conducted repeat-visit surveys at 360 sites within Delaware to sample presence of bobwhite. We randomly selected half the data to model scale-dependent relationships of bobwhite presence with metrics of landscape- and site-scale habitat composition and configuration. The final averaged habitat-occupancy model fit the remainder testing dataset with an area under the receiver operating characteristic curve value of 0.62. At the site scale, bobwhite presence was negatively related to interspersion and juxtaposition of early successional habitat (ESH; grassland and shrubland), ESH to forest edge density, and agriculture to forest edge density, though relative effect sizes were weak to moderate after accounting for model selection uncertainty. At the landscape scale, bobwhite presence was negatively related to patch cohesion of human development within 2.5 km and positively related to patch cohesion of ESH within 2.0 km, with both variables exerting strong effects. Bobwhite presence was also weakly and positively related to percentage of shrubland habitat within 1.0 km of the sampling point. We applied our habitat occupancy model to map the predicted presence of breeding bobwhite within the Delmarva Peninsula, USA. The modeling results and distribution map will provide guidance to State and Federal private land management programs in the Mid-Atlantic to identify where habitat management efforts will be most effective. Our methodology can also serve as a basis for future habitat modeling of bobwhite and other grassland–shrubland species across their range. © 2011 The Wildlife Society.