A Land Manager’s Guide to Point Counts of Birds in the Southeast (Hamel et al. 1996)


This USDA Forest Service General Technical Report was designed as a unified resource for land managers to plan and implement avian point count-based surveys in southeastern habitats.  Like similar point count protocols (ex. Ralph et al. 1995, summarized above), it organizes data collection into temporal and spatial bins.  In addition the Report provides treatments of sample size determination, distribution of counts among habitats, cooperative monitoring networks of neighboring land managers, vegetation sampling, standard data formats, and data input and management.  Appendices provide equipment lists, wind speed and sky condition classes, North American Bird Banding Manual species codes, suggestions for point count data schema, and a power method for determining sample size.


The report presents a succinct and easy to understand introduction to the use of point counts for bird monitoring.  It includes a decision tree for matching information needs with various approaches to bird monitoring, a method for determining appropriate sample sizes, and recommendations for data management.  The methods presented in this report are commonly used for point count surveys by the USDA Forest Service and the US Fish and Wildlife Service. 


The single annual survey per point and distance bins (<25m, 25-50m and >50m) recommended in the protocol are insufficient to accurately estimate detection probabilities, although the protocol can be enhanced to allow for such estimation by increasing the number of distance bins (Rosenstock et al. 2002). The suggested time of detection strata (3, 5, and 10 minute) are not equal intervals, and therefore inappropriate to use for repeated count analysis. Vegetation measurements are described in terms of documents that are difficult to obtain.

Examples of use

The USDA Forest Service Southeast Region uses the Hamel et al. (1996) protocol for collecting point count data on National Forests that is stored in the R8Bird database.  This is done in fulfillment of the Southern National Forest's Migratory and Resident Landbird Conservation Strategy where point count data are used to access and track the status of forest breeding bird populations and their habitats over time. A key goal of this landbird monitoring program is to provide implementation, effectiveness, and validation monitoring for Forest Plans. 

For more information

Download the guide here: http://www.dodpif.org/downloads/point-counts-SE.pdf

Literature Cited

Hamel, P.B., W.P. Smith, D.J. Twedt, J.R. Woehr, E. Morris, R.B. Hamilton, and R.J.Cooper. 1996. A land manager's guide to point counts of birds in the Southeast. Gen. Tech. Rep. SO-120. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Southern Research Station. 39 p.

Rosenstock, S.S., D.R. Anderson, K.M. Giesen, T. Leukering, and M.F. Carter. 2002. Landbird Counting Techniques: Current Practices and an Alternative. Auk 119(1):46-53.