Natural Resources, School of


Date of this Version



The Condor, Vol. 109, No. 4 (Nov., 2007), pp. 949-954


This article is a U.S. government work, and is not subject to copyright in the United States.


Avian biologists routinely estimate sampling variance for parameter estimates such as daily nest survival, fecundity, annual survival, and density. However, many biologists are not certain of methods to derive sampling variance for parameters when survival rates change temporal scales. Similar methods are needed to obtain sampling variance when biologists combine parameter estimates to calculate an indirect demographic parameter, such as population growth rate. The delta method is a useful technique for approximating sampling variance when the desired demographic parameter is a function of at least one other demographic parameter. However, the delta method is rarely taught in most graduate-level biology or ecology courses, and application of this method may be discouraged by seemingly daunting formulas in reference books. Here, I provide five examples of sampling variance approximations for common situations encountered by avian ecologists, with step-by-step explanations of the equations involved.