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Modeling and mapping abundance of American woodcock across the midwestern and northeastern United States

Thogmartin, W. E., Sauer, J. R., and Knutson, M. G., 2007, Modeling and mapping abundance of American woodcock across the midwestern and northeastern United States: Journal of Wildlife Management, v. 71, no. 2, p. 376-382.


We used an over-dispersed Poisson regression with fixed and random effects, fitted by Markov chain Monte Carlo methods, to model population spatial patterns of relative abundance of American woodcock (Scolopax minor) across its breeding range in the United States. We predicted North American woodcock Singing Ground Survey counts with a log-linear function of explanatory variables describing habitat, year effects, and observer effects. The model also included a conditional autoregressive term representing potential correlation between adjacent route counts. Categories of explanatory habitat variables in the model included land-cover composition, climate, terrain heterogeneity, and human influence. Woodcock counts were higher in landscapes with more forest, especially aspen (Populus tremuloides) and birch (Betula spp.) forest, and in locations with a high degree of interspersion among forest, shrubs, and grasslands. Woodcock counts were lower in landscapes with a high degree of human development. The most noteworthy practical application of this spatial modeling approach was the ability to map predicted relative abundance. Based on a map of predicted relative abundance derived from the posterior parameter estimates, we identified major concentrations of woodcock abundance in east-central Minnesota, USA, the intersection of Vermont, USA, New York, USA, and Ontario, Canada, the upper peninsula of Michigan, USA, and St. Lawrence County, New York. The functional relations we elucidated for the American woodcock provide a basis for the development of management programs and the model and map may serve to focus management and monitoring on areas and habitat features important to American woodcock.

Keywords: Bayesian, conditional autoregression, count data, Markov chain Monte Carlo, Scolopax minor, singing ground survey, spatial autocorrelation, Cerulean warblers, grassland birds, habitat, cover, conservation

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