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Assessing the Limitations and Methodologies of Autonomous Recording Units for Fall Bobwhite Surveys

Kyla Yuza-Pate

Northern Bobwhite (Colinus virginianus)

The Northern Bobwhite (hereafter bobwhite) is a quail species that resides in the eastern United States. In early fall, they form groups that we refer to as 'coveys,' and shortly before dawn they produce a unique call that state natural resource agencies can use for population monitoring purposes. As recommended by the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative, participating agencies send out human observers to the field early in the morning during fall months to conduct 45-minute counts, where data such as the number of coveys calling is recorded. Doing such covey counts is important as the bobwhite population has been in steep decline since the 1960's, and is listed as a Species of Greatest Conservation Need here in Iowa.

Northern bobwhite bird









Autonomous Recording Units

Autonomous recording units (hereafter ARUs) are small devices with microphones attached that researchers can program to record audio during specified times of day. Using the audio, we can extrapolate important information regarding populations for many taxa, most prominently being birds. Some advantages of using ARUs over in-person surveys include cheap operating costs and the decrease in bias caused by human disturbance during the surveys.

Aru in field









My Project Objectives

Assess some of the limitations of using ARUs for bird surveys:

  • If you have different observers processing the audio, will there be a significant difference in the total duration and number of birds calling?

Improve the efficiency and efficacy of ARU fall bobwhite surveys:

  • How does bobwhite calling vary throughout the season?
  • Can we reduce the amount of audio processed from 50 minutes to 30 minutes without losing a significant amount of data?


Research Poster

Assessing the limitations poster








Funding Organization: Iowa Department of Natural Resources

Duration: 04/21/2019

Principal Investigator(s): Adam Janke