The effectiveness of tape playbacks in estimating Black Rail densities

Journal of Wildlife Management
By: , and 



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

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title The effectiveness of tape playbacks in estimating Black Rail densities
Series title Journal of Wildlife Management
Volume 63
Issue 1
Year Published 1999
Language English
Contributing office(s) Patuxent Wildlife Research Center
Description 116-125
Larger Work Type Article
Larger Work Subtype Journal Article
Larger Work Title Journal of Wildlife Management
First page 116
Last page 125