An effective approach to species conservation involves efforts to prevent species from becoming threatened with extinction before they become listed as endangered. Standardized monitoring efforts provide the data necessary to estimate population trajectories of many species so that management agencies can identify declining species before they reach the point of endangerment. Species that occur in tidal saltmarshes in North America are under sampled by existing broad-scale monitoring programs. We summarize existing local and regional survey efforts for saltmarsh birds and propose a standardized continental protocol for assessing the status and population trends of birds that breed in saltmarshes in North America. The objective of this proposed survey effort is to create a series of interconnected monitoring efforts that will provide information on the status and the changes in status of terrestrial birds living in saltmarsh systems of North America. We describe detailed field protocols for standardized surveys of saltmarsh birds across North America. We recommend morning point-count surveys with an initial 5-min passive period followed by a period of call broadcast. Surveyors record all individual birds detected (regardless of distance) for all species that are associated with saltmarshes and estimate the distance to each individual bird detected. We provide recommendations for standardizing distance between adjacent survey points, how repeat detections across points are recorded, daily and seasonal timing of surveys, timing of surveys relative to tidal cycles, number of replicate surveys per year, and focal species for this standardized survey effort. Recommended survey protocols include methods that allow estimation of various components of detection probability so that stronger inferences can be made based on trends in count data. We explain why the various survey recommendations are made so that potential participants understand the rationale for various aspects of the survey protocols. We also provide sample data forms and an example of how to fill out a data form. These protocols build upon the Standardized North American Marsh-Bird Monitoring Protocols by encouraging those interested in saltmarsh passerines (and other saltmarsh birds) to conduct surveys using a standardized protocol similar to that being used for secretive marsh birds. Standardization of this sort will allow data from surveys focusing on saltmarsh passerines to be easily pooled with data from surveys focusing on secretive marsh birds. Implementing these standardized surveys in saltmarshes across North America will help document regional and continental patterns in distribution and abundance of all birds associated with tidal marshes.
Additional publication details
A unified strategy for monitoring changes in abundance of birds associated with North American tidal marshes