We evaluated an unverified index (auditory counts) used to estimate breeding populations of white-winged doves (Zenaida asiatica) in Texas, USA. Our objectives were to determine optimal survey time of day, year, and count duration, determine if a relationship existed between number of calling doves and population size (nest and dove density), and evaluate an electronic counter to estimate breeding density. We collected data on 15 sites in the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas during May–August of 2002–2003. Peak calling occurred between mid-May and late June during 0600–0800 hours. We detected about 60% of calling doves during 2-minute auditory counts. Estimates of breeding doves (pairs ha−1) as determined by auditory counts were positively correlated with both population density (r > 0.90, P < 0.01) and nest density (r > 0.94, P < 0.01). The electronic coo-counter tally also exhibited a positive relationship with population density (r > 0.77, P < 0.01) and nest density (r > 0.92, P < 0.04). However, the high correlations observed for auditory counts and electronic counter were influenced by 2 high dove-density sites. Our data did not provide convincing support for the premise underlying auditory counts of white-winged doves (i.e., number of doves calling reflects dove abundance). The electronic coo counter was limited in application because it tabulated dove calls based solely on acoustic frequency and therefore could not discriminate against other avian calls with acoustic frequencies similar to those of white-winged doves. Auditory counts may be appropriate as coarse-resolution reconnaissance surveys to locate new white-winged dove areas in need of monitoring but not to obtain reliable abundance estimates. The use of an electronic counter to estimate breeding populations of white-winged doves holds promise, given technical modifications, and warrants further research. Given the current limitations of both auditory counts and electronic counters, alternative survey methods that incorporate detection probabilities (e.g., distance sampling) need to be evaluated for white-winged doves.
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Vol. 70 • No. 5