Technology tracks birds visiting feeders

Jan 06, 2012 By Krishna Ramanujan
A black-capped chickadee with an RFID tag on its leg visits a "wired" feeder. (Kevin McGowan)

To study bird feeding and breeding behavior, ornithologists used to tag birds with colored bands and then painstakingly track the birds' activity. But now, an existing technology repurposed for tracking birds by researchers at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology automates such data-collecting, requiring scientists to spend only a few hours a week tending to feeders wired with tracking technology.

The technology, called RFID (), requires researchers to tag birds on the leg, while a battery- or solar-powered antenna and micro-computer on a feeder perch records an ID number whenever a tagged bird comes within a few inches of the feeder. The system reduces errors, records even the briefest visits and generates a complete record. Cornell ornithology researchers have now recorded more than 2.5 million visits by tagged birds to wired feeders.

In the past, RFID readers have prohibitively cost up to $10,000 each, but David Bonter, Project FeederWatch director at the ornithology lab, and Eli Bridge at the University of Oklahoma have developed a do-it-yourself version that can be made for about $40. They have posted instructions online at www.animalmigration.org and recently published them in the Journal of Field Ornithology.

have been used to track pets in case they get lost and packages by shipping companies, for example. Biologists have used RFIDs since the 1990s to monitor hordes of birds such as and penguins. When used in feeders, the continuous data may help answer such questions as when birds feed during the day, how weather affects feeding behavior and whether feeder location influences feeding behavior.

Explore further: Male monkey filmed caring for dying mate (w/ Video)

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Ivory-billed woodpecker recordings made

Aug 24, 2005

Researchers say more than 18,000 hours of recordings from eastern Arkansas forests contain further evidence of the existence of ivory-billed woodpeckers.

Feed the birds: Winter feeding makes for better breeding

Feb 06, 2008

Keep feeding the birds over winter: that’s the message from research by the University of Exeter and Queen’s University Belfast, published today (6 February 2008) in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters. The study ...

Mystery hummingbird's species identified

Dec 26, 2011

A mystery that puzzled Chicago-area birders was solved when Field Museum scientists identified the unusual hummingbird living in an Oak Park, Ill., yard as a member of the rufous species rarely seen in the Midwest.

UK garden bird avian pox virus spreading

Aug 04, 2011

A team at the Zoological Society of London, led by Dr. Becki Lawson, is tracking an increased spread of an avian pox virus that is rapidly moving through the UK and affecting the great tits. Researchers are asking the public ...

Recommended for you

Male monkey filmed caring for dying mate (w/ Video)

Apr 18, 2014

(Phys.org) —The incident was captured by Dr Bruna Bezerra and colleagues in the Atlantic Forest in the Northeast of Brazil.  Dr Bezerra is a Research Associate at the University of Bristol and a Professor ...

Orchid named after UC Riverside researcher

Apr 17, 2014

One day about eight years ago, Katia Silvera, a postdoctoral scholar at the University of California, Riverside, and her father were on a field trip in a mountainous area in central Panama when they stumbled ...

In sex-reversed cave insects, females have the penises

Apr 17, 2014

Researchers reporting in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on April 17 have discovered little-known cave insects with rather novel sex lives. The Brazilian insects, which represent four distinct but re ...

Fear of the cuckoo mafia

Apr 17, 2014

If a restaurant owner fails to pay the protection money demanded of him, he can expect his premises to be trashed. Warnings like these are seldom required, however, as fear of the consequences is enough to ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Researchers successfully clone adult human stem cells

(Phys.org) —An international team of researchers, led by Robert Lanza, of Advanced Cell Technology, has announced that they have performed the first successful cloning of adult human skin cells into stem ...

Finnish inventor rethinks design of the axe

(Phys.org) —Finnish inventor Heikki Kärnä is the man behind the Vipukirves Leveraxe, which is a precision tool for splitting firewood. He designed the tool to make the job easier and more efficient, with ...

Making graphene in your kitchen

Graphene has been touted as a wonder material—the world's thinnest substance, but super-strong. Now scientists say it is so easy to make you could produce some in your kitchen.