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

Darrah, A. J., and D. G. Krementz. 2010. Occupancy and habitat use of the least bittern and pied-billed grebe in the Illinois and Upper Mississippi River Valleys. Waterbirds 33. 367-375.


The Least Bittern (Ixobrychus exilis) and the Pied-billed Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps) are 2 secretive marsh bird species that breed in the Illinois and Upper Mississippi River Valleys. Marsh bird surveys were conducted on public and private wetlands in this region during the breeding seasons of 2006 and 2007. Detection probability (p) and site occupancy probability ( psi) was estimated for each species separately for each year. Candidate models including sampling and habitat covariates were compared using AICc to determine what variables had the greatest influence on p and psi. Average p for Least Bitterns was 0.29 in 2006 and 0.18 in 2007, and varied throughout the 2007 survey season. Average p for Pied-billed Grebes was 0.44 in 2006 and 0.22 in 2007, and an observer effect was found in 2007. Overall psi for Least Bitterns was 0.17 in 2006 and 0.14 in 2007. Least Bittern occupancy was positively related to tall emergent vegetation cover in both years and to water-vegetation interspersion in 2007, and was negatively related to woody vegetation cover in 2007. Overall for Pied-billed Grebes was 0.21 in 2006 and 0.31 in 2007. Pied-billed Grebe occupancy was negatively related to woody vegetation cover in both years, and was positively related to area of open water in 2006. Land managers targeting these species should provide wetlands free from woody vegetation with extensive areas of open water for Pied-billed Grebes, and tall emergent vegetation interspersed with small pools of water for Least Bitterns.