We developed a field survey protocol based on the North American Breeding Bird Survey to evaluate the efficiency and reliability of a bird monitoring scheme in the Neotropics, known as NeoMaps. A team of 21 amateur and professional ornithologists conducted bird counts at 27 locations distributed throughout Venezuela between March and April 2010. Locations selected followed a stratified spatial sampling design derived from environmental and biogeographical variables. Two complementary survey protocols were implemented in consecutive days along 40-km-long roadside transects. Three-minute point counts were performed at 50 stops, 800 m from each other on day 1. Cumulative species lists were recorded at a selection of 10 stops sampled for 9 min each, divided into three consecutive 3-min periods on day 2. We recorded 593 species at the 27 sites combined, representing 57% of the 1,033 potential species, or 43% of all known Venezuelan species. An additional 83 species were recorded outside of the formal point counts, for a total of 676 species detected. Groups such as hummingbirds and most waterbirds had unusually low numbers of both species and individuals, probably due to an abnormally dry year. Our survey methods appear to be appropriate for surveying most common diurnal non-colonial species. This is the first large-scale, systematic bird survey in Venezuela or, to our knowledge, in any other tropical country.
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