Quantifying detection probability of American woodcock (Scolopax minor) on transects sampled with thermal cameras

Luke F. Gray, Darin J. McNeil, Jeffery T. Larkin, Halie A. Parker, Dakotah Shaffer, Jeffery L. Larkin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Developing effective monitoring techniques for sensitive wildlife populations is essential for improving conservation outcomes. The American woodcock (Scolopax minor; hereafter woodcock) is an upland migratory game bird traditionally surveyed by documenting displaying males in spring. Surveys of displaying males are limiting in a variety of important ways such as brief detection window and male-centric observations. Thermal technology may overcome limitations of traditional monitoring techniques by increasing detections of non-singing woodcock, however, the efficacy of thermal imaging for detecting woodcock remains unknown. To quantify woodcock detection probability using thermal imaging, we deployed and searched for heat-emitting woodcock mounts along transects within early-successional habitats in central Pennsylvania during 2020. We deployed 110 woodcock mounts and successfully detected 63 (57.2%). Detection rate declined as a function of increasing vegetation density and distance from transect. Although detection probability of woodcock was imperfect, thermal cameras may provide a solution for researchers aiming to assess presence or density of woodcock when coupled with analytical methods that account for imperfect detection.

Original languageEnglish
JournalWildlife Society Bulletin
StateAccepted/In press - 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank individuals who donated woodcock carcasses for our study: J. Vance (West Virginia Department of Natural Resources), K. Parkin (New York City Audubon), S. P. Rogers (Carnegie Museum of Natural History), and S. Foust (Stoneybrook Outfitters). We would also like to give a special thanks to S. Stoleson of the U.S. Forest Service‐Northern Research Station for aiding with the handling and transportation of the woodcock carcasses. We also thank K. Van Why of United States Department of Agriculture (APHIS) for allowing us to borrow a thermal camera. We thank H. Streby (Associate Editor), A. Knipps (Editorial Assistant), A. Tunstall (Copy Editor) and J. Levengood (Content Editor), D. Krementz and one anonymous reviewer for constructive comments that improved our manuscript. This study was supported by funding from the Natural Resource Conservation Service's (NRCS) Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP) and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Authors. Wildlife Society Bulletin published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of The Wildlife Society.


  • American woodcock
  • Scolopax minor
  • detection probability
  • old field
  • thermal
  • timber harvest

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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