Validation of a novel time-to-event nest density estimator on passerines: An example using Brewer's sparrows (Spizella breweri)

Kaitlyn M. Reintsma, Alan H. Harrington, Victoria J. Dreitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Human impacts on natural resources increasingly necessitate understanding of the demographic rates driving wildlife population trends. Breeding productivity in many avian species is the demographic parameter that primarily influences population fluctuations. Nest density is a vital component of breeding productivity despite the fact that it is most often inferred exclusively from nest success. Unfortunately, locating every nest in a given area to determine nest density is often not feasible and can be biased by measurement error. The availability of a nest to be detected and the probability it will be detected during nest searching are two prominent sources of measurement error. A time-to-event nest density estimator has been developed that, unlike standard distance sampling methods, accounts for availability and can use nest data from outside structured surveys routinely collected to assess nest success. Its application is currently limited to Anseriformes, so we evaluated the general applicability of the time-to-event estimator in the order Passeriformes. To do this, we compared estimates of nest detection rate and nest density from the time-to-event estimator to distance sampling methods for 42 Brewer's sparrow (Spizella breweri) nests monitored in 2015. The time-to-event estimator produced similar but more precise nest detection and density estimates than distance sampling methods.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0227092
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2019


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