Maine Natural History Observatory

Censusing and Monitoring the Species and Habitats of Coastal Maine

Marsh Bird Surveys

We are seeking volunteers to conduct playback surveys (following a simple field protocol) of marsh birds in 200 randomly selected wetlands in Maine.  This survey will require three repeated visits to the same wetland over six weeks, between 15 May and 30 June to observe species such as Sora, Common Gallinule, and Sedge Wren. If you are interested in helping out with these surveys, send an email to Glen Mittelhauser ( and include "Marsh Bird Survey" in the subject line.

Marsh birds are a tough group to study because of their secretive nature.  Populations of many marsh birds that are dependent on emergent wetlands appear to be declining in the region, but these species can be difficult to detect without focused efforts.  The purpose of the survey is to collect information on the abundance and distribution of nine focal marsh bird species in Maine: Pied-billed Grebe, American Bittern, Least Bittern, Green Heron, Sora, Virginia Rail, Common Gallinule, American Coot, and Sedge Wren.  Observations of other bird species during the survey will also be valuable to the Maine Bird Atlas project. The survey results will be used to track changes in distribution and to identify areas where these species may still be relatively abundant, to guide land protection efforts, habitat management, and future research and monitoring efforts.

This survey will require three standardized playback surveys (one survey every two weeks from mid-May until the end of June) in each wetland during conditions when birds are most likely to be detected. It may be useful to become familiar with the vocalizations of the handful of frog species which inhabit these wetland areas so as not to confuse them with any vocalizing birds. These include the Spring Peeper, Wood Frog, Northern Leopard Frog, Pickerel Frog, American Toad, Gray Treefrog, Green Frog, American Bullfrog, and Mink Frog. Examples of these calls can be found at

The Maine Bird Atlas depends on the enthusiasm and dedication of thousands of volunteers across the state to help conduct surveys.  Thank you!

Marsh Locations

(We will send more detailed maps when you sign up or upon request)