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Data from: Bioacoustic monitoring reveals details of tricolored blackbird breeding phenology

Cite this dataset

Schackwitz, Wendy (2020). Data from: Bioacoustic monitoring reveals details of tricolored blackbird breeding phenology [Dataset]. Dryad.


Bioacoustic monitoring has been used to study behaviors of organisms from insects to whales. Studies using multiple vocalizations of a single species have the potential to determine detailed phenology, but to date are rare. We tested whether bioacoustic monitoring of multiple gender- and age-specific vocalizations of the imperiled tricolored blackbird Agelaius tricolor could provide detailed information on reproductive phenology and breeding success. Using inexpensive cell phones and free software applications, we collected audio recordings of tricolored blackbird colonies during their breeding season. Adding solar panels enabled the stations to run autonomously, and use of cellular data enabled remote uploading of recordings. Analysis of the presence or absence of three vocalizations (male song, female song, and nestling call) provided a rich and detailed description of the breeding phenology, including the dates for courtship, onset of nest building, incubation, nestling hatching, and fledgling departure from nesting colonies. The resulting detail was more granular and accurate than comparable data from field monitoring, although field monitoring provides data such as abundance counts that bioacoustic monitoring does not. This information has a wide range of applications to research and conservation, from enabling more accurate abundance estimates, to assessing colony success or failure with fewer visits, to providing stronger guidance for when a colony must be protected from disruption.


We made audio recordings of the colony using a custom-designed bioacoustic monitoring station. Our initial station included an audio recorder (an LGMS323 cellphone, LG Electronics, Seoul, South Korea) that ran the Automated Remote Biodiversity Monitoring Network (ARBIMON) Touch audio recording software application (Sieve Analytics, San Juan, Puerto Rico), enclosed in a waterproof case (Otterbox, Fort Collins, Colorado), with an external microphone (Monoprice, Rancho Cucamonga, California; Aide et al. 2013). We attached the recorder to a metal t-post with an elastic cord and installed it near the edge of the Rush Ranch colony (Figure 5A–B). The recorder collected data from 2 March–25 July, recording one minute of audio every 20 minutes, collecting 72 minutes of audio daily and more than 8,000 minutes over the 16-week breeding season.

Usage notes

Audio recordings of 5 Tricolored Blackbird colonies during 2017 and 2018 breeding season