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Abundance of Long-billed Curlews on military lands in the Columbia Basin

May 1, 2024

Long-billed Curlews (Numenius americanus) are declining throughout North America, and the loss of grassland breeding habitat is one of the primary threats to the species. Intermountain West, in particular, has been identified as the most important region in North America for breeding curlews. Nevertheless, the density and abundance of Long-billed Curlews in this region is not well understood. Lands managed for military training can provide habitat for wildlife species of conservation concern, and increasingly these lands are becoming relevant to sustaining biodiversity. We conducted point count surveys of Long-billed Curlews on Department of Defense lands in the Columbia Basin near Boardman, Oregon, USA during two consecutive breeding seasons. We used multinomial-Poisson mixture models to estimate detection probability and density of curlews and to investigate environmental correlates of those metrics. Mean detection probability at a distance of 400 m was 0.45 and 0.61 in 2015 and 2016, respectively. In 2015, the clarity of skies increased detection probability, but in 2016, none of the variables we measured influenced detection probability. Mean predicted density was 3.3 (95% confidence interval: 2.4–4.7) and 1.8 (1.2–2.7) curlews/km² in 2015 and 2016, respectively. In both years, curlew density was higher in lower-elevation or topographically smoother areas. Estimated abundance of curlews in the study area was 639 (456–912) and 350 (237–520) birds in 2015 and 2016, respectively. The number of curlews appeared to fluctuate across the two years of our study, a demographic trend that may have been influenced by a wildfire in our study area in June 2015. The results of our study indicate that federal grasslands, including areas where military operations are conducted, can provide conservation benefit to breeding Long-billed Curlews.

Publication Year 2024
Title Abundance of Long-billed Curlews on military lands in the Columbia Basin
DOI 10.5751/ACE-02616-190114
Authors Sharon Poessel, Elise Elliott-Smith, Sean M. Murphy, Susan M Haig, Adam E. Duerr, Todd E. Katzner
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Avian Conservation and Ecology
Index ID 70253577
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center