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Amount and diversity of bird-dispersed seed rain play important roles in determining forest composition, yet neither is easy to quantify. The complex ecological processes that influence seed movement make the best approach highly context specific. Although recent advances in seed rain theory emphasize quantifying source-specific seed shadows, many ecological questions can be addressed u sing a less mechanistic approach that requires fewer assumptions. Using seed rain rates from 0.38 m2 hoop traps sampled twice monthly over the course of a year, we show that number of traps required to identify changes in seed rain varies across seed species and forest type. Detecting a 50% increase in amount of seed rain required from 65 to >300 traps, while detecting a 200% increase generally required ≤50 traps. Trap size and ecological context dictate the number of seeds found in each trap, but the coefficient of variation (CV) across traps in a given ecological context can help inform future studies about number of traps needed to detect change. To better understand factors influencing variation around estimates of seed rain, we simulated both clustered and evenly distributed patterns of fecal deposition using three different levels of seed aggregation (number of seeds in each fecal deposit). When patterns of fecal deposition were clustered, rather than evenly dispersed across the study area, they required >1.5 times the number of traps to identify a 100% increase in seed rain. Similarly, we found that low seed aggregation required >1.5 times the number of traps to detect a 100% change than when aggregation was medium or high. At low aggregations, fewer seed rain traps contained seeds (low, 33 ± 5%; medium, 23 ± 4%; high, 24 ± 5%), resulting in more variation across traps than medium and high aggregations. We also illustrate the importance of training observers to discern between morphologically similar seeds from different species and provide resources to help identify bird-dispersed seeds commonly found within midelevation mesic Hawaiian forests.