Detection Probability and Occupancy of American Woodcock during Singing-ground Surveys


  • 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 Singing-ground Survey (SGS) was designed to exploit the conspicuous breeding-season display of male American woodcock (Scolopax minor; hereafter, woodcock) to monitor these otherwise inconspicuous birds. The SGS was standardized in 1968 and has since been conducted annually to derive an index of abundance and population trend. Counts of singing male woodcock on the SGS have generally declined through time, but without knowledge of the relationship among counts, woodcock abundance, and the factors affecting detection, considerable uncertainty remains in interpretation of SGS data. Using modified SGS protocols, we surveyed SGS routes in Pine County, Minnesota, in 2009 and 2010 and developed models to assess factors associated with detection probability and estimated occupancy. The intercept-only model (i.e., constant detection and occupancy probabilities across sites and no covariates) included overall detection probability of 0.59 (SE = 0.018) in 2009 and 0.66 (SE = 0.017) in 2010 with an occupancy estimate of 0.74 (SE = 0.049) in 2009 and 0.81 (SE = 0.044) in 2010. The best-supported model of detection probability for both years combined included detection as a function of woodcock abundance, observer, date, disturbance level (i.e., ambient noise that interfered with detecting woodcock), and wind speed. High wind speeds were negatively related to detection, different observers had different detection probabilities, date was quadratically related to detection (indicating a mid-period peak in detection), and high woodcock abundance and low disturbance levels were positively related to detection. We provide suggestions for incorporating these resulting into SGS protocol and analyses.






Singing-ground Survey Evaluation