We compared 2 survey methods for assessing winter bird communities in temperate grasslands: Winter Bird Population Study surveys are area-searches that have long been used in a variety of habitats whereas Project Prairie Bird surveys employ active-flushing techniques on strip-transects and are intended for use in grasslands. We used both methods to survey birds on 14 herbaceous reforested sites and 9 coastal pine savannas during winter and compared resultant estimates of species richness and relative abundance. These techniques did not yield similar estimates of avian populations. We found Winter Bird Population Studies consistently produced higher estimates of species richness, whereas Project Prairie Birds produced higher estimates of avian abundance for some species. When it is important to identify all species within the winter bird community, Winter Bird Population Studies should be the survey method of choice. If estimates of the abundance of relatively secretive grassland bird species are desired, the use of Project Prairie Birds protocols is warranted. However, we suggest that both survey techniques, as currently employed, are deficient and recommend distance- based survey methods that provide species-specific estimates of detection probabilities be incorporated into these survey methods.
Additional publication details
Winter bird population studies and project prairie birds for surveying grassland birds