Bird Study and Technology

To: <>
Subject: Bird Study and Technology
From: Damien Farine <>
Date: Fri, 1 Mar 2013 10:39:18 +1100
Hi all,
Just a few quick thoughts on this interesting thread.
LIDAR provides incredible detail about environmental features.  However these 
features primarily remain inputs into the study of birds, their ecology or 
behaviour.  In order to understand selection, behaviour, decision-making, or 
most other endeavours in conservation or ecology then there needs to be 
repeated observations of individuals or populations of birds.
PIT / RFID tags are emerging to be a very rich source of long-term monitoring.  
Here at Wytham Woods in Oxford we have a population of over 2800 individuals 
comprising 5 species that carry pit tags.  However such a system relies on the 
birds visiting specific spots where we have readers (in our case feeders or 
nest boxes) and we have no information on what they do in between.  This 
amounts to a richer set of mark-capture-recapture (by increasing the recaptures 
several thousand-fold) that allows us to infer a vast amount about the 
decision-making, behaviour and social strategies of birds and the selection 
pressures that operate on them.
There are some more active technologies, such as GPS tags that can communicate 
together and to base stations to automatically download data.  One group in 
Oxford is combining depth readers, salt-water detectors, GPS units and other 
hardware in order to get be able to infer the behaviour of foraging seabirds.
Some other groups are also putting video cameras that follow the gaze of birds 
and getting amazing results with raptors both soaring and hunting.
Overall there is a great willingness to embrace these technologies by 
ornithologist.  We just need the governments to stop cutting funding to science 
in order to allow us to gather these incredibly rich datasets.

> From: 
> Date: Thu, 28 Feb 2013 12:00:50 +1100
> To: 
> CC: 
> Subject: Re: [Birding-Aus] Bird Study and Technology
> Russ et al,
> LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) technology is showing great potential as 
> a technology for hands off research on birds (plus many other fields). It is 
> still fairly early days, but the number of applications is growing incredibly 
> rapidly. The hand held bird ID device is looking more and more possible.
> Here are a few links to sites about the application of LIDAR in research 
> involving birds.
> Cheers,
> Carl Clifford
> On 25/02/2013, at 22:45, Russ <> wrote:
> > I entered the library profession when technologies like RFID were already
> > established, so I'm not as awe-struck by things like self-check kiosks and
> > smart return chutes as many career librarians. What I do know is that this
> > technology has had a huge impact on how RFID-equipped libraries handle most
> > day-to-day business.
> > 
> > It's likely that RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) can have a similar
> > impact on bird research. It's already happening in some types of study.
> > 
> > Is your cat or dog microchipped? Than it has an RFID tag. The tag can be
> > read by a reader passed over the animal. Do you have a tollway transponder
> > in your vehicle? That uses the same technology - except that your dog has a
> > passive tag, and your car has an active (powered) one. Passive tags need to
> > be near the reader, while active tags can be some distance away, and even
> > not in line of sight. Currently, active tags are usually a bit big to fit
> > on birds, although geese and albatross can carry them.
> > 
> > Once we have the technology to power a tiny RFID tag so it can be read from
> > a greater distance,  this seems to be the logical technology to replace
> > banding. Currently, you need to be holding your local Red-necked Stint to
> > read all the data from the leg band. With improved RFID technology,
> > researchers will scan a flock of nearby waders and get a readout of tagged
> > birds - along with all their previous data. Of course, some data can't be
> > recorded without the bird in the hand (weight, measurements) but as laser
> > measurement becomes more sophisticated, don't be surprised if a hand-held
> > scanner can estimate weight and other data for a bird it measures from a
> > distance.
> > 
> > We'll also have to find more humane ways of catching birds and attaching
> > tiny RFID tags. 50 years ago it was acceptable to shoot a few birds or
> > steal their eggs to study them closer. 20 years ago it was unthinkable to
> > study species like waders without netting and banding (two separate issues,
> > by the way!). Within the next decade or so, I predict that some of the
> > current practices will be deemed abhorrent and inhumane  (some already are
> > by many people) so researchers will have to be smarter, use smarter
> > technology, and find new ways of collecting the data needed to fill the
> > multiple gaps in our knowledge of birds, their movements, their habitats,
> > their diets, their relationships with other species, including us.
> > 
> > Russell Woodford
> > ===============================
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