Marsh bird occupancy of wetlands managed for waterfowl in the Midwestern USA

Therin M. Bradshaw, Abigail G. Blake-Bradshaw, Auriel M.V. Fournier, Joseph D. Lancaster, John O’Connell, Christopher N. Jacques, Michael W. Eichholz, Heath M. Hagy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Marsh birds (rallids, bitterns, and grebes) depend on emergent wetlands, and habitat loss and degradation are the primary suspected causes for population declines among many marsh bird species. We evaluated the effect of natural wetland characteristics, wetland management practices, and surrounding landscape characteristics on marsh bird occupancy in Illinois during late spring and early summer 2015–2017. We conducted call-back surveys following the North American Standardized Marsh Bird Survey Protocol three times annually at all sites (2015 n = 49, 2016 n = 57, 2017 n = 55). Across all species and groups, detection probability declined 7.1% ± 2.1 each week during the marsh bird survey period. Wetlands managed for waterfowl (ducks, geese, and swans) had greater occupancy than reference wetlands. Marsh bird occupancy increased with greater wetland complexity, intermediate levels of waterfowl management intensity, greater proportions of surface water inundation, and greater proportions of persistent emergent vegetation cover. Wetland management practices that retain surface water during the growing season, encourage perennial emergent plants (e.g., Typha sp.), and increase wetland complexity could be used to provide habitat suitable for waterfowl and marsh birds.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0228980
JournalPloS one
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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