Count data with means <2 are often assumed to follow a Poisson distribution. However, in many cases these kinds of data, such as number of young fledged, are more appropriately considered to be multinomial observations due to naturally occurring upper truncation of the distribution. We evaluated the performance of several versions of multinomial regression, plus Poisson and normal regression, for analysis of count data with means <2 through Monte Carlo simulations. Simulated data mimicked observed counts of number of young fledged (0, 1, 2, or 3) by California spotted owls (Strix occidentalis occidentalis). We considered size and power of tests to detect differences among 10 levels of a categorical predictor, as well as tests for trends across 10-year periods. We found regular regression and analysis of variance procedures based on a normal distribution to perform satisfactorily in all cases we considered, whereas failure rate of multinomial procedures was often excessively high, and the Poisson model demonstrated inappropriate test size for data where the variance/mean ratio was <1 or >1.2. Thus, managers can use simple statistical methods with which they are likely already familiar to analyze the kinds of count data we described here.
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Vol. 74 • No. 3