Thursday, May 17, 2007

Counting Goatsuckers

The goatsuckers or nightjars (Family Caprimulgidae) of the eastern United—Whip-poor-will (Caprimulgus vociferous) and Chuck-will’s-widow (C. carolinensis) specifically—are among the most poorly surveyed of North American birds. Their nocturnal habits make them poorly suited for early-morning surveys such as the Breeding Bird Survey (on which detections average fewer than 1 bird/BBS route with goatsuckers), and they are equally likely to go undetected on diurnal bird surveys (e.g., detected on fewer than 1 percent of eBird checklists).

To help fill this void, the Center for Conservation Biology at the College of William and Mary has announced that they are initiating the Southeastern U.S. Nightjar Survey Network in 2007. The goal of the survey is to monitor Whip-poor-will and Chuck-will’s-widow population trends in 10 southeastern States, including West Virginia:
Nightjar Surveys are standardized counts conducted along census routes at night. Observers count all Nightjars seen or heard for a six-minute period at each of 10 stops along the route. The entire survey will not take much more than one hour to complete. We have designed a series of routes in each State based on the existing BBS [Breeding Bird Survey] but also have provided methods for interested participants to create their own route.
The success of the program relies entirely on volunteer participation. Details on how to participate are found here. This sounds like a pleasant way to spend a late spring/early summer evening (survey dates are May 24 through June 8) while making a significant contribution to our knowledge of nightjar populations.


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