Problems with avian point counts for estimating density of northern bobwhite-a case study


Point count data are used increasingly to provide density estimates of bird species. A favored approach to analyze point count data uses distance sampling theory where model selection and model fit are important considerations. We used uniform and half normal models and assessed model fit using χ2 analysis. We were unsuccessful in fitting models to 635 northern bobwhite Colinus virginianus observations from 85 avian point locations spanning 6 y (P ≤ 0.05). Most observations (74%) occurred in the outermost (>l100-m) distance radius. Our results violated the assumptions that all observations at the point are detected. The assumption that birds were assigned to the correct distance interval also was probably violated. We caution managers in implementing avian point counts with distance sampling when estimating northern bobwhite population density. We recommend exploring other approaches such as occupancyestimation and modeling for estimating detection probabilities.

Publication Title

Journal of Fish and Wildlife Management