Determining population size and long-term trends in population size for species of high concern is a priority of international, national, and regional conservation plans. Long-billed curlews (Numenius americanus) are a species of special concern in North America due to apparent declines in their population. Because long-billed curlews are not adequately monitored by existing programs, we undertook a 2-year study with the goals of 1) determining present long-billed curlew distribution and breeding population size in the United States and 2) providing recommendations for a long-term long-billed curlew monitoring protocol. We selected a stratified random sample of survey routes in 16 western states for sampling in 2004 and 2005, and we analyzed count data from these routes to estimate detection probabilities and abundance. In addition, we evaluated habitat along roadsides to determine how well roadsides represented habitat throughout the sampling units. We estimated there were 164,515 (SE = 42,047) breeding long-billed curlews in 2004, and 109,533 (SE = 31,060) breeding individuals in 2005. These estimates far exceed currently accepted estimates based on expert opinion. We found that habitat along roadsides was representative of long-billed curlew habitat in general. We make recommendations for improving sampling methodology, and we present power curves to provide guidance on minimum sample sizes required to detect trends in abundance.
Additional publication details
Estimating the breeding population of long-billed curlew in the United States