Excerpt: Conservation concerns, federal mandates to monitor birds, and citizen science programs have spawned a variety of surveys that collect information on bird populations. Unfortunately, all too frequently these surveys are poorly designed and use inappropriate counting methods. Some of the flawed approaches reflect a lack of understanding of statistical design; many ornithologists simply are not aware that many of our most entrenched counting methods (such as point counts) cannot appropriately be used in studies that compare densities of birds over space and time. It is likely that most of the readers of The Condor have participated in a bird population survey that has been criticized for poor sampling methods. For example, North American readers may be surprised to read in Bird Census Techniques that the North American Breeding Bird Survey 'is seriously flawed in its design,' and that 'Analysis of trends is impossible from points that are positioned along roads' (p. 109). Our conservation efforts are at risk if we do not acknowledge these concerns and improve our survey designs. Other surveys suffer from a lack of focus. In Bird Census Techniques, the authors emphasize that all surveys require clear statements of objectives and an understanding of appropriate survey designs to meet their objectives. Too often, we view survey design as the realm of ornithologists who know the life histories and logistical issues relevant to counting birds. This view reflects pure hubris: survey design is a collaboration between ornithologists, statisticians, and managers, in which goals based on management needs are met by applying statistical principles for design to the biological context of the species of interest. Poor survey design is often due to exclusion of some of these partners from survey development. Because ornithologists are too frequently unaware of these issues, books such as Bird Census Techniques take on added importance as manuals for educating ornithologists about the relevance of survey design and methods and the often subtle interdisciplinary nature of surveys.
Additional publication details
[Book review] Bird Census Techniques, Second Edition. Colin J. Bibby, Neil D. Burgess, David A. Hill, and Simon H. Mustoe. 2000. Academic Press, London, UK