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The effectiveness of tape playbacks in estimating Black Rail densities

January 1, 1999

Tape playback is often the only efficient technique to survey for secretive birds. We measured the vocal responses and movements of radio-tagged black rails (Laterallus jamaicensis; 26 M, 17 F) to playback of vocalizations at 2 sites in Florida during the breeding seasons of 1992-95. We used coefficients from logistic regression equations to model probability of a response conditional to the birds' sex. nesting status, distance to playback source, and time of survey. With a probability of 0.811, nonnesting male black rails were ))lost likely to respond to playback, while nesting females were the least likely to respond (probability = 0.189). We used linear regression to determine daily, monthly and annual variation in response from weekly playback surveys along a fixed route during the breeding seasons of 1993-95. Significant sources of variation in the regression model were month (F3.48 = 3.89, P = 0.014), year (F2.48 = 9.37, P < 0.001), temperature (F1.48 = 5.44, P = 0.024), and month X year (F5.48 = 2.69, P = 0.031). The model was highly significant (P < 0.001) and explained 54% of the variation of mean response per survey period (r2 = 0.54). We combined response probability data from radiotagged black rails with playback survey route data to provide a density estimate of 0.25 birds/ha for the St. Johns National Wildlife Refuge. The relation between the number of black rails heard during playback surveys to the actual number present was influenced by a number of variables. We recommend caution when making density estimates from tape playback surveys

Publication Year 1999
Title The effectiveness of tape playbacks in estimating Black Rail densities
Authors M. Legare, W.R. Eddleman, P. A. Buckley, C. Kelly
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Wildlife Management
Index ID 5223973
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Patuxent Wildlife Research Center