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Puget Sound Bird Observatory’s Regional Wetland Secretive Bird Monitoring project is a community science effort that uses volunteers to collect and record data according to a specific protocol for assessing regional populations and trends of marsh birds across the Puget Sound trough.

Puget Sound Bird Observatory began to review available distribution and abundance data on several wetland obligate species of birds in 2016 and identified a data gap between what was being recorded in species maps and antidotal observation, including eBird across the Puget Sound trough. A scoping project was launched in 2016, initially just in King and Snohomish Counties, to assess the presence of four (4) wetland obligate species (American Bittern (Botaurus lentiginosus), Sora (Porzana Carolina), Virginia Rail (Rallus limicola), and Green Heron (Butorides virescens) and two (2) wetland associated species for which there are population concerns, Marsh Wren (Cistothorus palustris) and Willow Flycatcher (Empidonax traillii). With the support of a large community of volunteer citizen scientists, this project has grown to roughly 140 habitat specific wetlands being surveyed across Skagit, Snohomish, King and Pierce Counties.

From the beginning the goal has been to collect statistically robust data that can be used by regional land managers and habitat managers in assessing ecosystem health. Project design allows for long-term regional monitoring that will provide landscape scale status and trends as well as site specific data of select wetland bird species throughout the Puget Sound trough. This project has also created access and engagement for volunteers with the opportunity to participate in field work and data collection across a large effort for monitoring birds.  

Birds are a major taxon that provides information on overall biological condition. They have high public appeal (Furness and Greenwood 1993), and are relatively efficient to sample. Marsh bird abundance and distribution over space and time indicate habitat quality and can be used as measures of restoration success (Neckles et al. 2002; U. S. EPA 2002). However typical landscape scale monitoring efforts such as the Breeding Bird Survey or Christmas Bird Count do not fully capture many of these elusive wetland species. While the six species chosen for this monitoring are not priority species, the lack of accurate population data can allow these species to be forgotten when assessing habitat quality and ecosystem health. Dr. Elliot Coures said of the American Bittern while studying it in 1874, “He prefers solitude, and leads the eccentric life of a recluse, forgetting the world, and by the world forgot.” Puget Sound Bird Observatory sees a need here to make sure these birds are not forgotten across the face of habitat loss but also as new and innovative wetland projects are implemented across Puget Sound.

Most of our selected wetland sites are on public lands or lands with public/private partnerships where engagement helps build appreciation and understanding of these unique and special places.

Oversight and expertise for this project is provided generously by Dr. Courtney Conway of the University of Idaho's Cooperative Fish & Wildlife Research Unit, by Ruth Milner, Washington Dept. of Fish and Wildlife, and by the scientific expertise within PSBO’s leadership team.

Birds have broad public appeal because of their almost ubiquitous presence, variety across species and engaging behaviors. Understanding avian abundance and distribution in these wetlands gives key indicators of environmental health and habitat well-being. Documenting accurate data on these birds also supports preservation of unique and special places for human beings. Grounding marsh habitat management in sound science allows us to work toward healthy spaces for birds and the public across the region's wetlands.

Wetland Secretive Bird Monitoring

Wetland Secretive Bird Survey Maps Critical Species!

Watch the Wetland Secretive Bird Survey video to find out more. Join in this effort by contacting PSBO today!

Secretive Wetland Bird Survey

Puget Sound Bird Observatory

See our project in action in this video

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