We compared detection rates of passive and playback breeding bird survey techniques on elusive marsh birds--Pied-billed Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps), American Bittern (Botaurus lentiginosus), Least Bittern (Ixobrychus exilis), Virginia Rail (Rallus limicola), and Sora (Porzana carolina)--during a two-year study at Lacreek National Wildlife Refuge, in southwestern South Dakota. We conducted 151 passive point counts followed by playback-response surveys at the same points in marsh-bird habitat on the refuge. Playback surveys detected secretive water birds more frequently than our passive surveys, increasing rates for each species by factors of 2.4 to 7.0. The distance a bird was detected from a point varied with the species and the survey technique.
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