Estimating Shorebird Abundance and Distribution Through Aerial Surveys in the Illinois River Valley

Luke J. Malanchuk, Michael P. Ward, Heath M. Hagy, Aaron P. Yetter

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

Abstract

The Illinois River Valley (IRV) serves as a crucial stopover area for migratory shorebirds in the midwestern United States despite the high prevalence of row crop agriculture and extensive wetland loss and degradation in the region. Aerial surveys are commonly used to quantify waterfowl abundance and estimate population size, but few attempts have been made to evaluate aerial surveys for other guilds of wetland birds. We investigated whether aerial surveys may provide a good estimate of shorebird use of stopover sites in the IRV. During July-September 2017-2018, and April-May 2018, we conducted concurrent ground and aerial surveys at 5-7 sites per week. Additionally, a single observer counted and assigned all shorebird detections to either "large" (Killdeer (Charadrius vociferous) and larger) or "small" (Pectoral sandpiper (Calidris melanotos) and smaller) size classes, and recorded wetland habitat characteristics at a total of 96 surveyed sites in the IRV. The use of ground counts each survey allows for the calculation of aerial detection probability count bias, while using habitat data of the specific count location from the ground as a correction factor. Aerial surveys detected 89% (N = 93, Range = 0%-250%) of individuals counted during ground surveys. The total number of shorebirds counted in the IRV each week ranged from 1,705 to 30,290, with an average of 10,025 birds. Aerial surveys appear to be an accurate and efficient method to quantifying shorebird abundance along large-river systems. Future plans include questions associated with stopover duration and which species are present in the IRV.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationMidwest Fish and Wildlife Conference 2019
StatePublished - 2019

Keywords

  • INHS

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