Wetland Birds

2016 Wetland Bird Surveys

We surveyed nearly 60 privately owned wetlands twice — covering most of Missouri. Our data provides exact locations of all species detected within each wetland. This information can be used to with water level data collected, to explain the various wetland birds association with water depths within properties.

2015 Wetland Bird Surveys

An amazing year with great progress as we surveyed 30 plus privately owned wetlands covering most of Missouri. Using our iPAD field data collection of exact bird locations and distance analysis we were able to generate compelling results on where the birds are actually using the habitat within properties! A small example of one property here https://mrbo.maps.arcgis.com.

2014 Wetland Bird Surveys

Out with old and in with the new. Well, in April, May, and June we conducted surveys on 15 privately owned wetlands covering most of Missouri. Ten of the sites were visited 3 times. The other 5 were visited twice.

Why are we still doing this? Marshbirds need our help…

Given that most wetland birds are not adequately surveyed by the North American Breeding Bird Survey, better data are needed to address the conservation of these birds. Scientists began developing a national standardized marsh bird survey method in 1998 to fill this data gap, and in recent years, several states have begun piloting this protocol. In 2012, Missouri will joined the ranks of states implementing pilot marsh bird survey programs. This effort was intended to result in data that can be used at the State, regional, and National levels to track marsh bird populations, assist planning activities, assess habitat needs, focus conservation efforts, and evaluate the effects of conservation programs.

After the 2012-13 pilot seasons, we adopted a new survey methodology with a study design focus on private lands in 2014. Much remains unknown about the guild of birds known as “secretive marshbirds”, a group that includes the rails and bitterns that inhabit emergent marshes. In Missouri, the abundance, recent population trends, and habitat requirements of several species are poorly documented and short-term studies fail to determine detailed information about life history needs. The little information we do have suggests that populations are undergoing precipitous declines.

Aquiring data on nonabundant species and translating those results into something meaningful for conservation is a challenge. Marsh birds in Missouri are far more abundant during migration as many wetland managers and landowners concentrate efforts on providing habitat for waterfowl during those times. The limiting factor, however, may actually be breeding habitat.

In light of these dynamics, MRBO is conducting all birds using the wetlands we survey and sharing information about what specific wetland habitat and managment corresponds with bird occurance on private lands.

Unlike other bird surveys done from roads (e.g., Breeding Bird Survey), the secretive nature of many marsh birds requires venturing into the wetland habitat to conduct surveys. While some may not relish the idea of wading through a marsh, those who do will be offered spectacular wildlife viewing opportunities. This program also requires more advanced birding skills than some surveys, because observers need to be able to identify birds by sound alone.

We are no longer using the sampling framework developed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service reported on in 2012, but are still broadcasting a series of vocalizations to elicit responses from focal species. All species using the wetland will be mapped. In this way, we can provide information that is more “spatially explicit.” Meaning, we can provide more exact bird location information to landowners and managers. Our systematic design will afford unbiased density/occupancy (for species with detection sample sizes that allow for it), as well as practical knowledge of exactly where and when these birds exist.

To learn more about additional research we are conducting, read our Report on the use of Autonomous Recording Units to examine marsh bird presence

We will conduct long-term monitoring through the foreseeable future. In 2014, marsh bird survey sites were located on private Wetland Reserve Program lands in partnership with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Marsh bird monitoring will help NRCS wetland biologists assess the viability of various management schemes in producing high-quality wetlands. We hope our data will not only underscore the importance of private lands to marsh bird conservation, but will provide refined measures that more truly represent the relationship of wetland management to bird occupancy.