Surveys based on double sampling include a correction for the probability of detection by assuming complete enumeration of birds in an intensively surveyed subsample of plots. To evaluate this assumption, we calculated the probability of detecting active shorebird nests by using information from observers who searched the same plots independently. Our results demonstrate that this probability varies substantially by species and stage of the nesting cycle but less by site or density of nests. Among the species we studied, the estimated single-visit probability of nest detection during the incubation period varied from 0.21 for the White-rumped Sandpiper (Calidris fuscicollis), the most difficult species to detect, to 0.64 for the Western Sandpiper (Calidris mauri), the most easily detected species, with a mean across species of 0.46. We used these detection probabilities to predict the fraction of persistent nests found over repeated nest searches. For a species with the mean value for detectability, the detection rate exceeded 0.85 after four visits. This level of nest detection was exceeded in only three visits for the Western Sandpiper, but six to nine visits were required for the White-rumped Sandpiper, depending on the type of survey employed. Our results suggest that the double-sampling method's requirement of nearly complete counts of birds in the intensively surveyed plots is likely to be met for birds with nests that survive over several visits of nest searching. Individuals with nests that fail quickly or individuals that do not breed can be detected with high probability only if territorial behavior is used to identify likely nesting pairs.
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Vol. 111 • No. 3