Using soundscape recordings to estimate bird species abundance, richness, and composition

Antonio Celis-Murillo, Jill L. Deppe, M. F. Allen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Point counts are the most frequently used technique for sampling bird populations and communities, but have well-known limitations such as inter- and intraobserver errors and limited availability of expert field observers. The use of acoustic recordings to survey birds offers solutions to these limitations. We designed a Soundscape Recording System (SRS) that combines a four-channel, discrete microphone system with a quadraphonic playback system for surveying bird communities. We compared the effectiveness of SRS and point counts for estimating species abundance, richness, and composition of riparian breeding birds in California by comparing data collected simultaneously using both methods. We used the temporal-removal method to estimate individual bird detection probabilities and species abundances using the program MARK. Akaike's Information Criterion provided strong evidence that detection probabilities differed between the two survey methods and among the 10 most common species. The probability of detecting birds was higher when listening to SRS recordings in the laboratory than during the field survey. Additionally, SRS data demonstrated a better fit to the temporal-removal model assumptions and yielded more reliable estimates of detection probability and abundance than point-count data. Our results demonstrate how the perceptual constraints of observers can affect temporal detection patterns during point counts and thus influence abundance estimates derived from time-of-detection approaches. We used a closed-population capture-recapture approach to calculate jackknife estimates of species richness and average species detection probabilities for SRS and point counts using the program CAPTURE. SRS and point counts had similar species richness and detection probabilities. However, the methods differed in the composition of species detected based on Jaccard's similarity index. Most individuals (83%) detected during point counts vocalized at least once during the survey period and were available for detection using a purely acoustic technique, such as SRS. SRS provides an effective method for surveying bird communities, particularly when most species are detected by sound. SRS can eliminate or minimize observer biases, produce permanent records of surveys, and resolve problems associated with the limited availability of expert field observers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)64-78
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Field Ornithology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2009


  • INHS
  • Acoustic recordings
  • Abundance estimation
  • Temporal removal method
  • Soundscape
  • Detection probability
  • Species richness
  • Sampling techniques

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


Dive into the research topics of 'Using soundscape recordings to estimate bird species abundance, richness, and composition'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this