Research Spotlight Series: Jeffrey Ethier

By Jeffrey Ethier

Posted May 28, 2018

Editor’s Note: In our Research Spotlight Series we shine a light on exciting research in our province. In this post we showcase the Jeffrey Ethier from the Wilson Animal Behaviour Lab.

Jeffrey Ethier, Wilson Animal Behaviour Lab.

My research focuses on studying the influences of habitat structure and composition on the bird assemblages of Labrador using acoustic monitoring techniques. North American landbirds are declining at an alarming rate. Although legislation provides a framework for conservation, basic data on distributions and habitat preferences are lacking for many species.

Traditional methods, such as point counts, provide important information about habitat use, but may not provide sufficient spatial resolution to identify a bird’s preferred microhabitat. I used an acoustic localization system that localizes vocalizing birds to within 1 m in three-dimensional space. I deployed the system at 110 sites in forests near North West River and Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Labrador during the 2016 and 2017 breeding seasons.

Common Nighthawk (Photo by Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren (Common Nighthawk) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons).

In total, I detected and localized over 3 million vocalizations from 30 species, including a species at risk in Newfoundland and Labrador, the Common Nighthawk. I found that habitat variables are not very strong predictors of species richness. However, habitat structure and composition can explain presence/absence patterns of species and that the strength these relationships are species-specific. I also analyzed the microhabitat preferences of Boreal Chickadees and Cape May Warblers, which are both in steep decline.