During winter, aerial surveys are used to estimate densities of ducks that occupy open-water habitats. However, such surveys are ineffective for sampling forest-dwelling species, especially Aix sponsa (Wood Ducks), Anas platyrhynchos (Mallards), and Lophodytes cucullatus (Hooded Mergansers). We evaluated fixed-radius plot (FRP) and Reynolds and Goodrum variable-radius plot (VRP) methods for estimating waterfowl densities in a flooded hardwood bottomland. We constructed 15 elevated blinds on the Angelina River flood plain in eastern Texas and established a 1-ha FRP around each blind; color-coded markers were placed at fixed intervals from each blind. Observers surveyed waterfowl from blinds for 21 mornings during January–March, 1990. For FRPs, species, sex, and time a bird entered and exited the plot were recorded. For VRPs, similar data and estimated observer-to-bird distance were recorded. Data were arranged in a randomized block design and tested using 1-way analyses of variances. Wood Ducks, Mallards, and Hooded Mergansers comprised 68, 18, and 10% of the birds recorded, respectively. Wood Duck density estimates (per ha) for FRP, Reynolds VRP, and Goodrum VRP methods were 0.65, 0.49, and 1.00 (P < 0.001), respectively; for Mallards, estimates were 0.27, 0.20, and 0.33 (P < 0.001), respectively; and estimates were 0.09, 0.13, and 0.15 (P = 0.003) for Hooded Mergansers, respectively. Based on ease of implementation, complexity of data analyses, and precision of density estimates, the FRP and Goodrum VRP methods are recommended for sampling waterfowl in flooded forests.
Whiting, R. Montague Jr. and Cornes, J. Paul, "Estimating Waterfowl Densities in a Flooded Forest: a Comparison of Methods" (2009). Faculty Presentations. Paper 3.