Integrated bird monitoring and avian community sampling: Using new technologies to obtain information on cryptic and nocturnal bird species (2013-2014)
Goals and Objectives
A focus on all-birds conservation has become a central theme in the planning and evaluation framework of the
habitat Joint Ventures but data deficiencies currently impede realizing this goal for many species. Field-based
sampling at large spatial scales is costly because it usually requires large work crews and substantial
logistical support; thus, it is common for such efforts to endeavor to record information on many species
during a single site visit. Since species differ in their breeding habits and the seasonal timing of these activities,
they are not all available to be detected by sampling efforts at the same time of day or within the same
seasonal period. Furthermore, some species exhibit cryptic behaviors (e.g. several marsh bird species), while
other species are primarily active at night, a time when virtually no avian surveys occur. For most bird species
the primary means of detection is aural identification by song or call. Recent advances in technology have
made it logistically feasible to collect survey information using autonomous recording units (ARUs). By
recording at locations over several days at different times of day, the amount and quality of data collected
increases dramatically with little or no additional increase in operational costs. This project proposes to deploy
ARUs over a large spatial scale to (1) garner information on the distribution of cryptic and nocturnal species
within the Prairie Habitat Joint Venture delivery area, (2) sample different habitat types to enable linking species
distribution to landscape characteristics, and (3) investigate seasonal and diurnal activity patterns to make
recommendations on optimizing the operational use of ARUs for bird monitoring.
Specific Habitat Products/Results Supported by WHC’s Contributions
Development of spatially-explicit DSS models for non-waterfowl species of migratory birds.
Benefits to Waterfowl, Wetlands-Associated Species, and/or Other Wildlife
The PHJV is committed to the concept of incorporating all-bird conservation into their planning and evaluation
framework, but current data deficiencies impede this goal.
Relevance to Habitat Planning, Decision Making and/or Management
This project is specifically aimed to improve conservation-related decision making at the Joint Venture-level; the
agencies that will benefit from the project include but are not limited to: Canadian Wildlife Service/Environment
Canada, Ducks Unlimited Canada, Alberta Sustainable Resource Development, Wildlife Habitat Canada,
Saskatchewan Watershed Authority, Manitoba Conservation, Manitoba Habitat Heritage Corporation, and
Saskatchewan Environment. An evaluation and performance of the PHJV noted that more attention need be
directed to birds other than waterfowl; this project directly addresses this priority. Information that emanates
from this project will directly influence habitat conservation planning and management by enabling the
development of spatially-explicit DSS models for non-waterfowl species of birds with the PHJV delivery area.
This project will take place at several sites within the PHJV delivery area to ensure that representative sampling
is achieved. The majority of land within these study sites is privately-owned, so access to migratory bird hunting
is controlled by landowner discretion; in Prairie Canada, most landowner permit access to hunters of migratory
For more information on this project, please contact Dr. Kiel Drake, Biologist and Program Manager, Bird Studies
Canada, Saskatoon, SK.