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Natural Resource Ecology and Management

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Accounting for imperfect detection is an important process when obtaining estimates of density or abundance for breeding birds, and this is particularly true when researchers are monitoring birds to assess the success of restored wetlands. Due to the dramatic decline in areal cover and habitat quality, wetland restoration in the Prairie Pothole Region (PPR) is critically important to breeding birds. The Shallow Lakes Restoration Project (SLRP), a partnership between the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and Ducks Unlimited, Inc., aims to restore degraded shallow lakes throughout the Iowa PPR. We conducted unlimited-radius point counts with call-broadcast surveys for breeding marsh birds at 30 shallow lakes in various stages of restoration in 2016 and 2017. Our goals were to assess the impact of covariates on detection probability and estimate density of these species at non-restored, younger (1–5 years since restoration), and older (6–11 years since restoration) restorations. Detection probability ranged between 0.07 ± 0.009 (SE) for Red-winged Blackbird and 0.40 ± 0.09 (SE) for Common Yellowthroat. Percent cattail had a positive quadratic effect on detection probability for four species, with detection decreasing sharply as percent cattail increased and increasing slightly with 100% cattail cover. Wind speed negatively influenced the detection probability of Pied-billed Grebes but had a negative quadratic effect on the detection probability of Marsh Wrens. Both restored shallow lakes had greater densities of breeding Pied-billed Grebes, Marsh Wrens, and Yellow-headed Blackbirds than non-restored shallow lakes, but there was no significant difference between younger and older restorations. Including both habitat and environmental covariates on models for detection probability can improve the precision of estimates for density and should be considered when assessing bird populations pre- and post-restoration of shallow lakes.


This article is published as Vanausdall RA, Dinsmore SJ (2020) Detection and density of breeding marsh birds in Iowa wetlands. PLoS ONE 15(1): e0227825. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0227825.

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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Vanausdall, Dinsmore



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