Date of Award


Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Applied Ecology (MS)

College, School or Department Name

School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science


David James Flaspohler


Between 1966 and 2003, the Golden-winged Warbler (Vermivora chrysoptera) experienced declines of 3.4% per year in large parts of the breeding range and has been identified by Partners in Flight as one of 28 land birds requiring expedient action to prevent its continued decline. It is currently being considered for listing under the Endangered Species Act. A major step in advancing our understanding of the status and habitat preferences of Golden-winged Warbler populations in the Upper Midwest was initiated by the publication of new predictive spatially explicit Golden-winged Warbler habitat models for the northern Midwest. Here, I use original data on observed Golden-winged Warbler abundances in Wisconsin and Minnesota to compare two population models: the hierarchical spatial count (HSC) model with the Habitat Suitability Index (HSI) model. I assessed how well the field data compared to the model predictions and found that within Wisconsin, the HSC model performed slightly better than the HSI model whereas both models performed relatively equally in Minnesota. For the HSC model, I found a 10% error of commission in Wisconsin and a 24.2% error of commission for Minnesota. Similarly, the HSI model has a 23% error of commission in Minnesota; in Wisconsin due to limited areas where the HSI model predicted absences, there was incomplete data and I was unable to determine the error of commission for the HSI model. These are sites where the model predicted presences and the Golden-winged Warbler did not occur. To compare predicted abundance from the two models, a 3x3 contingency table was used. I found that when overlapped, the models do not complement one another in identifying Golden-winged Warbler presences. To calculate discrepancy between the models, the error of commission shows that the HSI model has only a 6.8% chance of correctly classifying absences in the HSC model. The HSC model has only 3.3% chance of correctly classifying absences in the HSI model. These findings highlight the importance of grasses for nesting, shrubs used for cover and foraging, and trees for song perches and foraging as key habitat characteristics for breeding territory occupancy by singing males.