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Logistic quantile regression provides improved estimates for bounded avian counts: A case study of California Spotted Owl fledgling production

August 30, 2017

Counts of avian fledglings, nestlings, or clutch size that are bounded below by zero and above by some small integer form a discrete random variable distribution that is not approximated well by conventional parametric count distributions such as the Poisson or negative binomial. We developed a logistic quantile regression model to provide estimates of the empirical conditional distribution of a bounded discrete random variable. The logistic quantile regression model requires that counts are randomly jittered to a continuous random variable, logit transformed to bound them between specified lower and upper values, then estimated in conventional linear quantile regression, repeating the 3 steps and averaging estimates. Back-transformation to the original discrete scale relies on the fact that quantiles are equivariant to monotonic transformations. We demonstrate this statistical procedure by modeling 20 years of California Spotted Owl fledgling production (0−3 per territory) on the Lassen National Forest, California, USA, as related to climate, demographic, and landscape habitat characteristics at territories. Spotted Owl fledgling counts increased nonlinearly with decreasing precipitation in the early nesting period, in the winter prior to nesting, and in the prior growing season; with increasing minimum temperatures in the early nesting period; with adult compared to subadult parents; when there was no fledgling production in the prior year; and when percentage of the landscape surrounding nesting sites (202 ha) with trees ≥25 m height increased. Changes in production were primarily driven by changes in the proportion of territories with 2 or 3 fledglings. Average variances of the discrete cumulative distributions of the estimated fledgling counts indicated that temporal changes in climate and parent age class explained 18% of the annual variance in owl fledgling production, which was 34% of the total variance. Prior fledgling production explained as much of the variance in the fledgling counts as climate, parent age class, and landscape habitat predictors. Our logistic quantile regression model can be used for any discrete response variables with fixed upper and lower bounds.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2017
Title Logistic quantile regression provides improved estimates for bounded avian counts: A case study of California Spotted Owl fledgling production
DOI 10.1642/AUK-16-195.1
Authors Brian S. Cade, Barry R. Noon, Rick D. Scherer, John J. Keane
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title The Auk
Series Number
Index ID 70190427
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Fort Collins Science Center

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