Does survey method bias the description of northern goshawk nest-site structure?

Sonya K. Daw, Stephen DeStefano, Robert J. Steidl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Past studies on the nesting habitat of northern goshawks (Accipiter gentilis) often relied on nests found opportunistically, either during timber-sale operations, by searching apparently 'good' goshawk habitat, or by other search methods where areas were preselected based on known forest conditions. Therefore, a bias in the characterization of habitat surrounding northern goshawk nest sites may exist toward late-forest structure (large trees, high canopy closure). This potential problem has confounded interpretation of data on nesting habitat of northern goshawks and added to uncertainty in the review process to consider the species for federal listing as threatened or endangered. Systematic survey methods, which strive for complete coverage of an area and often use broadcasts of conspecific calls, have been developed to overcome these potential biases, but no study has compared habitat characteristics around nests found opportunistically with those found systematically. We compared habitat characteristics in a 0.4-ha area around nests found systematically (n = 27) versus those found opportunistically (n = 22) on 3 national forests in eastern Oregon. We found that both density of large trees (systematic: x̄ = 16.4 ± 3.1 trees/ha; x̄ ± SE; opportunistic: x̄ = 21.3 ± 3.2; P = 0.56) and canopy closure (systematic: x̄ = 72 ± 2%; opportunistic: x̄ = 70 ± 2%; P = 0.61) were similar around nests found with either search method. Our results diminish concern that past survey methods mischaracterized northern goshawk nest-site structure. However, because northern goshawks nest in a variety of forest cover types with a wide range of structural characteristics, these results do not decrease the value of systematic survey methods in determining the most representative habitat descriptions for northern goshawks. Rigorous survey protocols allow repeatability and comparability of monitoring efforts and results over time.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1379-1384
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Wildlife Management
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1998


  • Accipiter gentilis
  • Canopy closure
  • Habitat
  • Nests
  • Northern goshawk
  • Old-growth
  • Oregon
  • Survey
  • Survey bias

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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