• American black duck;
  • Atlantic Flyway Breeding Waterfowl Survey;
  • Bayesian methods;
  • Canada geese;
  • hierarchical models;
  • mallard;
  • wood duck


We used log-linear hierarchical models to analyze data from the Atlantic Flyway Breeding Waterfowl Survey. The survey has been conducted by state biologists each year since 1989 in the northeastern United States from Virginia north to New Hampshire and Vermont. Although yearly population estimates from the survey are used by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service for estimating regional waterfowl population status for mallards (Anas platyrhynchos), black ducks (Anas rubripes), wood ducks (Aix sponsa), and Canada geese (Branta canadensis), they are not routinely adjusted to control for time of day effects and other survey design issues. The hierarchical model analysis permits estimation of year effects and population change while accommodating the repeated sampling of plots and controlling for time of day effects in counting. We compared population estimates from the current stratified random sample analysis to population estimates from hierarchical models with alternative model structures that describe year to year changes as random year effects, a trend with random year effects, or year effects modeled as 1-year differences. Patterns of population change from the hierarchical model results generally were similar to the patterns described by stratified random sample estimates, but significant visibility differences occurred between twilight to midday counts in all species. Controlling for the effects of time of day resulted in larger population estimates for all species in the hierarchical model analysis relative to the stratified random sample analysis. The hierarchical models also provided a convenient means of estimating population trend as derived statistics from the analysis. We detected significant declines in mallard and American black ducks and significant increases in wood ducks and Canada geese, a trend that had not been significant for 3 of these 4 species in the prior analysis. We recommend using hierarchical models for analysis of the Atlantic Flyway Breeding Waterfowl Survey. Published 2014. This article is a U.S. Government work and is in the public domain in the USA.