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Keywords:

  • area search;
  • density;
  • grassland bird;
  • line transect;
  • strip transect;
  • survey;
  • winter

ABSTRACT Although investigators have evaluated the efficacy of survey methods for assessing densities of breeding birds, few comparisons have been made of survey methods for wintering birds, especially in grasslands. In winter, social behavior and spatial distributions often differ from those in the breeding season. We evaluated the degree of correspondence between density estimates based on different survey methods. Surveys were conducted during two winters (2001–2002 and 2002–2003) on 16 grassland sites in southwestern Oklahoma. Line-transect (using a detection function to account for birds present but not detected) and area-search (where density was based on the total count within a given area) methods were employed. Observations on line transects were also analyzed as strip transects, where density was based on total count within a given strip width and no detection function was used. Savannah Sparrows (Passerculus sandwichensis), LeConte's Sparrows (Ammodramus leconteii), Song Sparrows (Melospiza melodia), Smith's Longspurs (Calcarius pictus), Chestnut-collared Longspurs (C. ornatus), and Eastern Meadowlarks (Sturnella magna) were sufficiently abundant to allow comparison. Area-search density estimates tended to be higher than line-transect estimates for Savannah Sparrows, Song Sparrows, and Eastern Meadowlarks, suggesting that some individuals initially located close to the transect line were not detected on line transects. The area-search and line-transect methods gave similar density estimates for Chestnut-collared and Smith's longspurs. Area-search estimates of Eastern Meadowlarks were significantly higher in the second year of the study only. For this species, area-search estimates did not differ from those of strip transects covering an equal area, so the reason for the differing meadowlark estimates is not clear. Higher density estimates using the area-search method likely resulted from: (1) birds that might escape detection by hiding were more likely detected (flushed) during area searches because of the repeated passes through the area, and (2) birds close to the line in line transects escape detection by hiding, biasing those estimates low. We also evaluated the correspondence of density rankings for the six species as determined by the different survey methods and for the same species across survey sites. Correlations among the six species of the area-search results with those of line transects and strip transects generally were high, increasing in 2002–2003 when densities of birds were greater. All three methods provided similar density rankings among species. Density rankings within species across sites for the four non-longspur species generally were concordant for the three methods, suggesting that any of them will adequately reflect among-site differences, especially when densities vary greatly across sites. Further research is needed to determine the extent to which grassland birds are missed on line transects. We suggest that workers using line transects to study these species give careful consideration and make additional efforts to satisfy the distance-sampling assumption that all birds on or near the line are detected. If density is measured as a total count in a fixed area, we recommend that observers pass within <10 m of all points in the area.

SINOPSIS

Mientras los investigadores han evaluado la eficacia de diferentes métodos para evaluar la densidad de aves reproductivas, muy pocas comparaciones se han hecho para aves invernales, particularmente especies de hierbazales. Durante el invierno, la conducta social y la distribución espacial comúnmente difieren de lo exhibido durante la época de reproducción. Evaluamos el grado de correspondencia entre estimados de densidad basados en diferentes métodos de encuesta para contabilizar aves. Se llevaron a cabo conteos durante dos inviernos (2001–2002, 2002–2003) en 16 localidades con hierbazales en el suroeste de Oklahoma, ocho en el Reservación Militar del Fuerte Sill, y ocho en el Refugio Nacional de Vida Silvestre de las Montañas de Wichita. Se utilizaron como métodos, líneas de transectos (utilizando una función de detección para tomar en consideración aves presentes pero no detectadas) y búsqueda-activa (en donde la densidad fue basada en el total de conteos dentro de un área particular). Las observaciones en líneas de transectos fueron también analizadas como transectos en franjas, en donde la densidad fue basada en el conteo total dentro de una franja con ancho particular y no se utilizó ninguna función de detección. El Gorrión de Savana (Passerculus sandwichensis) el LeConte (Ammodramus leconteii), el Melodioso (Melospiza melodia) el Smith (Calcarius pictus) el Acollarado (C. ornatus) y el Sabanero (Sturnella magna), fueron lo suficientemente abundantes para permitir una comparación. Los estimados de la densidad, utilizando la técnica de búsqueda activa, tendieron