Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Arizona
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Arizona Project

Developing Optimal Survey Techniques for Monitoring Population Status of Rails, Snipe, Coots, and Gallinules

December 2008 - September 2010


Participating Agencies

  • USFWS Region 2

OBJECTIVES: 1) determine the optimal timing for conducting surveys in each region of the country. 2) determine the optimal tide stage for conducting surveys within tidal systems. 3) determine whether regional call dialects influence the effectiveness of call-broadcast surveys. These objectives directly address the primary research need for rails, galluniles, and coots for the Atlantic and Central Flyways and the Webless Species in General lists developed by the Webless Migratory Game Bird Program: "Develop survey techniques to monitor population status". This project also addresses research needs described in Tacha and Braun (1994). Virtually all chapters of the book "Management of Migratory Shore and Upland Game Birds in North America" cited the need for a national monitoring program to estimate status and trends of rails, moorhens, and gallinules (Tacha and Braun 1994). Moreover, the need for special development of methods to monitor secretive marsh birds is identified as a priority in the North American Waterbird Conservation Plan (NAWCP), a continental framework for conservation of waterbird species embraced by the USFWS and other partners in the Waterbird Conservation for the Americas initiative. Standardizing and encouraging the monitoring of secretive marsh birds is also listed as one of the key recommendations made in the National Wildlife Refuge System's Fulfilling the Promise document. The USGS Status and Trends Program stresses the need for long-term monitoring efforts that estimate trends in abundance using standardized methods at regular intervals. And finally, 2 workshops held at Patuxent Wildlife Research Center (in 1999 and 2006) brought together approximately 50 researchers and managers with interest in marsh birds to move forward on developing a marsh bird monitoring program that would provide rigorous data with which to determine status and trends of rails, snipe, gallinules, and coots (Ribic et al. 1999, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2006).