Field-readable alphanumeric flags are valuable markers for shorebirds: Use of double-marking to identify cases of misidentification

Erin A. Roche, Colin M. Dovichin, Todd W. Arnold

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Implicit assumptions for most mark-recapture studies are that individuals do not lose their markers and all observed markers are correctly recorded. If these assumptions are violated, e.g., due to loss or extreme wear of markers, estimates of population size and vital rates will be biased. Double-marking experiments have been widely used to estimate rates of marker loss and adjust for associated bias, and we extended this approach to estimate rates of recording errors. We double-marked 309 Piping Plovers (Charadrius melodus) with unique combinations of color bands and alphanumeric flags and used multi-state mark recapture models to estimate the frequency with which plovers were misidentified. Observers were twice as likely to read and report an invalid color-band combination (2.4% of the time) as an invalid alphanumeric code (1.0%). Observers failed to read matching band combinations or alphanumeric flag codes 4.5% of the time. Unlike previous band resighting studies, use of two resightable markers allowed us to identify when resighting errors resulted in reports of combinations or codes that were valid, but still incorrect; our results suggest this may be a largely unappreciated problem in mark-resight studies. Field-readable alphanumeric flags offer a promising auxiliary marker for identifying and potentially adjusting for false-positive resighting errors that may otherwise bias demographic estimates.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)329-338
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Field Ornithology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2014


  • Charadrius melodus
  • Color bands
  • Double-marking
  • False positives
  • Mark-recapture
  • Misidentification
  • Piping Plover


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