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Accession Number 5005128

Title Exploring the use of recorded sounds for monitoring waterbird populations

Project Description Colonial waterbirds have been the subject of increased population monitoring efforts in recent

years and estimates of population trends are frequently used to establish conservation priorities

for these taxa. While some colonial-nesting birds are conspicuous and relatively easy to monitor,

other colonial waterbird populations poses considerable challenges. The enormous numbers of

birds present at a colony or aspects of their breeding biology such as nesting in crevices and

burrows and/or nocturnal attendance at colonies do not allow for the easy enumeration of breeding

adults. Methods for monitoring these taxa are poorly developed, if they exist at all, and frequently

result in very imprecise estimates of population trends. In recent years, the technology for

recording and analyzing bird vocalizations has undergone considerable improvements. Analyses of

vocalizations that formerly required use of sophisticated equipment in specialized laboratories

can now be accomplished on personal computers. Improved analytical techniques allow for the

identification of individual birds by their vocalizations. Although the few current studies have been

conducted with a small number of passerine species, these techniques may be equally useful for

colonial-nesting birds and other non-passerines and hold the potential for developing innovative

approaches for monitoring populations of many bird species. We propose to explore the use of

vocalizations of individual birds in the development of monitoring techniques for colonial waterbirds.

In this study, we will determine whether individuals of specific taxa can be distinguished and

identified by their vocalizations. The primary emphasis will on nocturnal and crevice/burrow nesting

species because reliable monitoring methods do not presently exist for most of these taxa. If this

study finds that individuals can be positively identified by their vocalizations, a second study will

be necessary to explore using vocalizations in capture-recapture models to estimate population


Keywords acoustics, colonial, monitoring, seabird, vocalizations,

Principal Melanie J Steinkamp, USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center:;


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