JournalDisplay Article
Saturday, October 20, 2018

Modeling Wetland Blackbird Populations as a Function of Waterfowl Abundance in the Prairie Pothole Region of the United States and Canada


Department of Biological Sciences, North Dakota State University, Fargo, ND
U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Wildlife Research Center, Bismarck, ND
U.S. Geological Survey Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center, La Crosse, WI

Blackbirds share wetland habitat with many waterfowl species in Bird Conservation Region 11 (BCR 11), the prairie potholes. Because of similar habitat preferences, there may be associations between blackbird populations and populations of one or more species of waterfowl in BCR11. This study models populations of red-winged blackbirds and yellow-headed blackbirds as a function of multiple waterfowl species using data from the North American Breeding Bird Survey within BCR11. For each blackbird species, we created a global model with blackbird abundance modeled as a function of 11 waterfowl species; nuisance effects (year, route, and observer) also were included in the model. Hierarchical Poisson regression models were fit using Markov chain Monte Carlo methods in WinBUGS 1.4.1. Waterfowl abundances were weakly associated with blackbird numbers, and no single waterfowl species showed a strong correlation with any blackbird species. These findings suggest waterfowl abundance from a single species is not likely a good bioindicator of blackbird abundance; however, a global model provided good fit for predicting red-winged blackbird abundance. Increased model complexity may be required for accurate predictions of blackbird abundance; the amount of data required to construct appropriate models may limit this approach for predicting blackbird abundance in the prairie potholes.

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