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North American Marsh Bird Survey

Marsh BirdThe amount of emergent wetland habitat in North America has declined sharply during the past century. Populations of many marsh birds that are dependent on emergent wetlands appear to be declining. For many reasons, numerous federal agencies are cooperating to monitor marsh bird populations in North America to estimate population trends. Continued monitoring will also allow resource managers to evaluate whether management actions or activities adversely impact wetland ecosystems. Any management action that alters water levels, alters salinity, reduces mudflat/open-water areas, alters invertebrate communities, or reduces the amount of emergent plant cover within marsh habitats could potentially affect habitat quality for marsh birds. The survey protocol used for the Marsh Bird Survey at Otter Point Creek is a standardized survey methodology intended for use on National Wildlife Refuges and other protected areas across North America. (See website at for a .pdf version of the complete survey protocol).

Objectives of Program

This survey protocol is intended to provide guidance to individuals planning to survey secretive marsh birds to reach different objectives.

  1. Document presence or distribution of marsh birds within a defined area
  2. Estimate or compare density of secretive marsh birds among management units, wetlands or regions
  3. Estimate population trend for marsh birds at local or regional scale
  4. Evaluate effects of management actions on secretive marsh birds
  5. Document habitat types or wetland conditions that influence abundance or occupancy of marsh birds

The following are a list of the marsh bird species in the calling survey at Otter Point Creek.

  1. American Bittern (AMBI) Botaurus lentiginosus
  2. King Rail (KIRA) Rallus elegans
  3. Least Bittern (LEBI) Ixobrychus exilis
  4. Sora Rail (SORA) Porzana carolina
  5. Virginia Rail (VIRA) Rallus limicola


12/2009 - After two seasons of surveys we've heard or seen several birds. In 2008, a Least Bittern and a King Rail were heard and one Least Bittern was seen flying out of the brush! In 2009, a Virginia Rail and a King Rail were heard. The areas around stations 6, 8, 9, and 10 seem to be the hot spots.

Station Map

Below is a map showing the monitoring stations.

Monitoring Stations



Monday thru Friday, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Saturday, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Sunday, 12:00 noon to 5:00 p.m.



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Anita C. Leight Estuary Center / 700 Otter Point Road, Abingdon MD 21009 / 410-612-1688