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Do singing-ground surveys reflect american woodcock abundance in the western Great Lakes region?

Authors

  • Matthew R. Nelson,

    Corresponding author
    • Minnesota Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit2, Department of Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN, USA
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  • David E. Andersen

    1. United States Geological Survey, Minnesota Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, Department of Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN, USA
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  • Associate Editor: DeStefano
  • Cooperators include the United States Geological Survey, University of Minnesota, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the Wildlife Management Institute, and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.

Abstract

The Singing-ground Survey (SGS) is the primary monitoring tool used to assess population status and trends of American woodcock (Scolopax minor). Like most broad-scale surveys, the SGS cannot be directly validated because there are no independent estimates of abundance of displaying male American woodcock at an appropriate spatial scale. Furthermore, because locations of individual SGS routes have generally remained stationary since the SGS was standardized in 1968, it is not known whether routes adequately represent the landscapes they were intended to represent. To indirectly validate the SGS, we evaluated whether 1) counts of displaying male American woodcock on SGS routes related to land-cover types known to be related to American woodcock abundance, 2) changes in counts of displaying male American woodcock through time were related to changes in land cover along SGS routes, and 3) land-cover type composition along SGS routes was similar to land-cover type composition of the surrounding landscape. In Wisconsin and Minnesota, USA, counts along SGS routes reflected known American woodcock-habitat relations. Increases in the number of woodcock heard along SGS routes over a 13-year period in Wisconsin were related to increasing amounts of early successional forest, decreasing amounts of mature forest, and increasing dispersion and interspersion of cover types. Finally, the cover types most strongly associated with American woodcock abundance were represented along SGS routes in proportion to their composition of the broader landscape. Taken together, these results suggest that in the western Great Lakes region, the SGS likely provides a reliable tool for monitoring relative abundance and population trends of breeding, male American woodcock. © 2013 The Wildlife Society.

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