Aerial surveys have been used to estimate abundance of several wild bird species including wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo). We used inflatable turkey decoys at 3 study sites in the Texas Rolling Plains to simulate Rio Grande wild turkey (M. g. intermedia) flocks. We evaluated detectability of flocks and errors in counting flock size during fixed-wing (Cessna 172) aerial surveys using logistic and linear regression models. Flock detectability was primarily influenced by flock size and vegetative cover, and errors in counting flock size were primarily influenced by size of flocks. We conducted computer simulations to evaluate the accuracy and precision of fixed-wing aerial surveys and examined power to detect trends in population change. Our simulations suggested abundance estimates from fixed-wing aerial surveys may be underestimated by 10–15% (2.0–4.8% CV). Power analyses suggested that fixed-wing aerial surveys can provide sufficient power (≥0.80) to detect a population change of 10–25% over a 4–5-year period. We concluded fixed-wing aerial surveys are feasible on ecoregion scales.
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Vol. 71 • No. 5