5.1 Purpose. This chapter provides guidance for coordinating and conducting population monitoring surveys and reporting the status and trends of migratory shore and upland game bird populations, particularly mourning doves and woodcock.
5.2 Customers. Mourning dove and woodcock population trends are used annually by the Office of Migratory Bird Management (MBMO), the Service Regulations Committee, the Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS), and State wildlife agencies in the promulgation of hunting regulations. Additionally, other individuals and organizations use the information, such as wildlife researchers and managers, private organizations concerned with migratory birds, and concerned citizens.
5.3 Constraints. The annual assessments of population status, based on analysis and interpretation of annual survey information, must be completed according to established schedules to allow sufficient time for Flyway Councils, Service Regulations Committee members, and other interested agencies and organizations to consider pertinent information in the development of early-season hunting regulations.
5.4 Authority. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act (16 U.S.C. 703-712) and the Fish and Wildlife Act of 1956 (16 U.S.C. 742a-742j) provide the authority to monitor waterfowl populations as part of the development of appropriate hunting regulations. Mourning doves and woodcock are included in the treaties with Great Britain (for Canada) and Mexico. These treaties recognize sport hunting as a legitimate use of a renewable migratory bird resource.
5.5 Policy. Service policy defining the coordination and conduct of migratory shore and upland game bird survey programs is provided in detail in 722 FW 1.
5.6 Mourning Dove Populations. Assessments of the status and trends of breeding populations of mourning doves in North America include the following:
A. Coordination. The Mourning Dove Call-count Survey provides indices of population abundance that are used to estimate short-term changes in population levels and long-term trends in populations. The Migratory Shore and Upland Game Bird Specialist in MBMO will coordinate the Mourning Dove Call-count Survey through the Migratory Bird Coordinator (MBC) in each Service Regional Office (except Alaska). The MBCs are responsible for coordinating the survey with the States in their respective Region. Many State wildlife agencies coordinate the survey within their own State. About 70 percent of the routes are run by State wildlife biologists or volunteers. Service biologists are responsible for conducting the remaining 30 percent.
B. Data Collection. There are more than 1,000 randomly located routes throughout the conterminous 48 States. Each call count route is usually located on lightly traveled, secondary roads and has 20 listening stations spaced at 1-mile intervals. At each stop, the number of doves heard calling, the number seen, and the level of disturbance (noise) that impairs the observer's ability to hear doves are recorded. The number of doves seen while driving between stops is also noted. Counts begin one-half hour before sunrise and continue for about 2 hours. Routes are run once between May 20 and June 5. Surveys are not made when wind velocities exceed 12 miles per hour or when it is raining.
C. Data Entry, Storage, and Analyses. After completing the survey, each observer sends a copy of the survey form to the Migratory Shore and Upland Game Bird Specialist for quality checking. Data are keypunched and run through a series of computer checks. Using computer programs, data are analyzed along with historic information stored on computer tape. Trends are calculated for the most recent 2- and 10-year intervals and for the entire period, beginning in 1966 through the present year. Separate analyses are run for doves heard and doves seen.
D. Results of Survey. Results are summarized by the State and Mourning Dove Management Unit and subunit and are presented in an administrative report, "Mourning Dove Breeding Population Status." The report is mailed to State wildlife administrators and other interested parties in mid-June. An oral presentation is made at the Public Hearing for Early Season Regulations the third week of June each year.
5.7 Woodcock Populations. Assessments of the status and trends of the woodcock breeding population in North America include the following:
(1) The Singing-Ground Survey provides an index to the current year's breeding population of woodcock and reflects the combined effects of trends in the total amount of available woodcock habitat and the relative abundance of birds in that habitat. Changes in the number of woodcock heard per route are used to monitor short- and long-term changes in woodcock populations.
(2) The Eastern Migratory Shore and Upland Game Bird Specialist in MBMO will coordinate the Woodcock Singing-Ground Survey through the MBC in Regions 3 and 5 and through the CWS Woodcock coordinator. The CWS coordinator and each MBC administer the survey in their respective areas of jurisdiction. In many cases, this is accomplished with the assistance of State and Provincial coordinators. About 50 percent of the routes are run by State wildlife biologists. The remainder of routes are run by CWS and Service employees (25 percent) and volunteers (25 percent).
B. Data Collection.
(1) Approximately 1,500 survey routes have been established along lightly traveled secondary roads in the center of randomly chosen 10-minute blocks within each State and Province in the central and northern portions of the woodcock's breeding range. Each route is 3.6 miles long, consisting of 10 listening points approximately 0.4 miles apart. The routes are surveyed shortly after sunset by an observer who drives to each of the 10 stops and records the number of woodcock heard "peenting." The recommended survey dates have been selected to coincide with peaks in courtship behavior of local woodcock. In most States, the actual peak of singing activity (including local and migratory woodcock) may occur earlier in the spring, and, in some situations, local reproduction may already be underway. However, it is necessary to conduct the survey during the designated dates to avoid counting migratory woodcock. Because adverse weather conditions may affect singing behavior or listening conditions, surveys are only conducted when wind, rain, and temperature conditions are acceptable.
(2) To avoid expending unnecessary manpower and funds, approximately one-half of the 1,500 Singing-Ground Survey routes are run each year. The remainder of these routes are carried as "constant zeros." Routes on which no woodcock are heard for at least 2 consecutive years enter this constant zero status and are run once every 5 years. If woodcock are heard, the route enters a normal status and is surveyed each year.
C. Data Entry, Storage, and Analyses. After completing the survey, the observer sends a copy of the survey form to the Eastern Migratory Shore and Upland Game Bird Specialist for editing and data entry. Edited forms are keypunched and analyzed by an MBMO biometrician. Trends are calculated for periods of interest, including the period from 1968 to present, and from the previous year to the present year.
D. Results of Survey. Results of the Singing-Ground Survey and Wing-Collection Survey are summarized by State and Woodcock Management Unit in an administrative report, "American Woodcock Harvest and Breeding Population Status." The report is mailed to State wildlife administrators and other interested parties in mid-June. The Eastern Migratory Shore and Upland Game Bird Specialist makes an oral presentation of the results of these surveys and other information pertinent to the status of woodcock, snipe, and rails at the Public Hearing for Early Season Regulations, the third week of June each year.
5.8 Woodcock Harvest Information. Assessments of age-ratio data and hunter activity and success information include the following:
A. Coordination. The Eastern Migratory Shore and Upland Game Bird Specialist will coordinate the Woodcock Wing-Collection Survey. Regions 3, 4, and 5 each supply two participants to assist in the "Woodcock Wing Bee." Other participants are associated with State wildlife agencies and universities. The Wing-Collection Survey monitors the annual productivity of woodcock by providing an estimate of the number of immature woodcock per adult female in the fall population. This survey also provides information on the number of woodcock bagged per day and per season by cooperators (an index to abundance).
B. Data Collection. In the absence of a method for selecting individuals at random, woodcock hunters are solicited from State fish and game agencies and from Federal duck stamp purchasers who indicate that they hunt woodcock. Survey participants include hunters who (1) participated in the previous year's survey, (2) requested that they be included in the survey, or (3) indicated on a State or Federal harvest survey that they hunted woodcock during the previous hunting season. Wing-Collection Survey participants are provided with prepaid mailing envelopes and asked to submit one wing from each woodcock they bag. In addition, hunters are asked to record the effort and success of their hunts. Age and sex ratios in the harvest are determined by examining plumage characteristics during the annual Service "Woodcock Wing Bee" (a cooperative work session).
C. Data Entry, Storage, and Analysis.
(1) Following data entry and editing, annual production indices are compared to the long-term ratio of immatures per adult female. To ensure comparability between annual indices, the State indices are weighted. Annual indices are calculated as the average number of immatures per adult female in each State, adjusted for the relative contribution of each State to the number of wings received over the long-term.
(2) The daily and seasonal bags of hunters who participated in the Wing-Collection Survey in the previous 2 years are used as indices of hunter success. These indices are weighted to compensate for differences in the proportion of the estimated woodcock harvest attributable to each State and adjusted to a base-year value for comparison with previous years.
D. Results. Results are reported as described in 5.7D.
For additional information regarding this Web page, contact Krista Holloway, in the Division of Policy and Directives Management, at Krista_Holloway@fws.gov
Return to the Series 700 Home Page
Visit the Division of PDM Directives Home Page
Visit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Home Page