Estimating Sighting Proportions of American Alligator Nests during Helicopter Survey

Proportions of American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) nests sighted during aerial survey in Florida were estimated based upon multiple surveys by different observers. We compared sighting proportions across habitats, nesting seasons, and observer experience levels. The mean sighting proportion across all habitats and years was 0.736 (SE=0.024). Survey counts corrected by the mean sighting proportion reliably predicted total nest counts (7?2=0.933). Sighting proportions did not differ by habitat type (P=0.668) or year P=0.328). Experienced observers detected a greater proportion of nests (P<0.0001) than did either less experienced or inexperienced observers. Reliable estimates of nest abundance can be derived from aerial counts of alligator nests when corrected by the appropriate sighting proportion.

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