Monitoring the abundance and stability of populations of conservation concern is often complicated by an inability to perfectly detect all members of the population. Mark-recapture offers a flexible framework in which one may identify factors contributing to imperfect detection, while at the same time estimating demographic parameters such as abundance or survival. We individually color-marked, recaptured, and re-sighted 1,635 federally listed interior least tern (Sternula antillarum; endangered) chicks and 1,318 piping plover (Charadrius melodus; threatened) chicks from 2006 to 2009 at 4 study areas along the Missouri River and investigated effects of observer-, subject-, and site-level covariates suspected of influencing detection. Increasing the time spent searching and crew size increased the probability of detecting both species regardless of study area and detection methods were not associated with decreased survival. However, associations between detection probability and the investigated covariates were highly variable by study area and species combinations, indicating that a universal mark-recapture design may not be appropriate.
Additional publication details
Detection probability of least tern and piping plover chicks in a large river system