Cooperative Research Units
Education, Research And Technical Assistance For Managing Our Natural Resources
Home | Intranet | Digital Measures | Help

Bolenbaugh, J. R., D. G. Krementz, and S. E. Lehnen. 2011. Secretive marsh bird species co-occurrences and habitat association across the Midwest, USA. Journal of Fish and Wildlife Management 2:49-60.


Because secretive marsh birds are difficult to detect, population status and habitat use for these birds are not well
known. We conducted repeated surveys for secretive marsh birds across 264 sites in the Upper Mississippi River and
Great Lakes Joint Venture region to estimate abundance, occupancy, and detection probabilities during the 2008 and
2009 breeding seasons. We identified species groups based on observed species co-occurrences. Two species, least
bittern Ixobrychus exilis and American bittern Botaurus lentiginosus, co-occurred with other species less often than
expected by chance, and two species groups, rails (Virginia rail Rallus limicola and sora Porzana carolina) and openwater
birds (pied-billed grebe Podilymbus podiceps, common moorhen Gallinula chloropus, and American coot Fulica
americana; coots were only surveyed in 2009), co-occurred more often than expected by chance. These groupings
were consistent between years. We then estimated the relation of these species and groups to landscape and local site
characteristics by using zero-inflated abundance models that accounted for incomplete detection. At the landscape
level (5-km radius), the amount of emergent herbaceous wetland was positively associated with least bittern
occupancy, whereas the amount of woody wetland was negatively associated with least bittern, rail, and open-water
bird occupancy. At the local level, habitat variables that were associated with abundance were not consistent among
groups or between years, with the exception that both least bitterns and open-water birds had a strong positive
association between abundance and water–vegetation interspersion. Land managers interested in marsh bird
management or conservation may want to consider focusing efforts on landscapes with high amounts of emergent
herbaceous wetland and low amounts of woody wetland, and managing for high amounts of water–vegetation
interspersion within the wetland


Current Staff

Federal Staff: 2

Masters Students: 1

Phd Students: 4

Post Docs: 1

University Staff: 1

5 Year Summary

Students graduated: 17

Scientific Publications: 31

Presentations: 56



June 2011


Publisher Website

Unit Authors

Arkansas Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit Cooperators

  1. Arkansas Game and Fish Commission
  2. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  3. U.S. Geological Survey
  4. University of Arkansas
  5. Wildlife Management Institute