Estimating Density and Effective Area Surveyed for American Woodcock

  • Stefanie M. Bergh Minnesota Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit
  • David E. Andersen U.S. Geological Survey, Minnesota Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit


The American Woodcock (Scolopax minor; hereafter, woodcock) Singing-ground Survey (SGS) is conducted annually during the woodcock breeding season, and survey points along survey routes are set 0.4 mile (0.65 km) apart to avoid counting individual birds from >1 listening location. The effective area surveyed (EAS) at a listening point is not known, and may vary as a function of land-cover type or other factors. To define the relationship describing distance between vocalizing woodcock and an observer and how cover types influence that relationship, we broadcast a recording of woodcock vocalizations in 2 land-cover types (forest and field) at varying distance. We evaluated the proportion of call broadcasts detected as a function of distance and fit regression curves to detection data to estimate a distance (r*) where the area above the curve at distances <r* was equal to the area under the curve at distances >r*, which allowed determination of the radius of an area where detection probability was effectively 1.0. This EAS had a radius (r*) of 198 m for forest, 384 m for field, and 309 m for both of these land-cover types combined, and an estimated size of 12.3 ha for forest, 46.3 ha for field, and 30.0 ha for both land-cover types combined. We used this information to estimate density of displaying male woodcock based on counts from the SGS in east-central Minnesota that incorporated variation in EAS, probability of detection, survey date, and survey route. Our density estimates (5.0 birds/100 ha in 2009 and 7.1 birds/100 ha in 2010) represent the highest density of singing male American woodcock yet reported, and indicated a substantive increase in density between years.

Singing-ground Survey Evaluation