Bird species detection by an observer and an autonomous sound recorder in two different environments: Forest and farmland

PLoS One. 2019 Feb 7;14(2):e0211970. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0211970. eCollection 2019.


Birds are commonly used as bio-indicators of the quality of environments and the changes to them. Therefore, ecologists put a lot of effort into the monitoring of their population trends. One of the methods used for bird population monitoring is autonomous sound recording. Current studies provide inconsistent results when the number of detected species by autonomous sound recorders was compared with that delivered by an observer. In our study, observers counted birds using a point-count method at 64 random points in forest and farmland. At the same points, autonomous sound recorders recorded the soundscape four separate times (including counting by observer period) and the species present in the recordings were later identified by observers in the lab. We compared the number of species detected by simultaneous observations and recordings, as well as the number of species detected by recorders during four different surveys. Additionally, we calculated the Sorensen index to compare the species composition during different surveys at the same point. We found that observers detected more species than autonomous sound recorders. However, differences in the number of detected species were habitat dependent-observers detected more species than recorders in farmland, but not in the forest. When the time for recording was doubled, recorders were more effective than observers during a single survey. The average Sorensen index between the four repeated surveys performed by autonomous sound recorders ranged from 0.58 to 0.67, however we did not find significant differences in the number of species detected during different surveys conducted at the same point. Our study showed that 10-minutes sampling from the same point gives various species composition estimates but not species richness estimates between different surveys. Therefore, even when recorders detect less species than observers during the simultaneous surveys, increasing the survey duration of recorders may alter this difference. The use of autonomous sound recording for monitoring bird populations should be promoted, especially in forest habitats, as this technique is easier to standardise, eliminates many errors observed in the traditional point-count approach, enables conducting survey during adverse field conditions and delivers more reliable results for the majority of the species.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biodiversity
  • Birds / classification*
  • Birds / physiology
  • Conservation of Natural Resources
  • Farms
  • Forests
  • Vocalization, Animal / physiology*

Grant support

In the study the authors used equipment funded by Ministry of Science and Higher Education (grant Iuventus Plus no IP2014 005073) and National Science Centre (grant Opus no 20156/17/B/NZ8/02347).