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  • For years I’ve been looking for ways to track the feeding behavior of individual birds.

  • There's an incredible amount of information that we don't know, even about our most common feeder birds,

  • even here in North America where everybody’s feeding chickadees and cardinals.

  • It’s actually really hard to follow an individual bird over an extended period of time

  • and keep track of what it’s doing.

  • And bird the size of chickadees and nuthatches are way to small for GPS units and backpack receivers.

  • This little tag right here is a PIT tag, a passive integrated transponder.

  • RFID stands for radio frequency identification,

  • and this is what allows us to track the feeding behavior of birds in an unprecedented way.

  • I’m the Director of Project FeederWatch here at the Lab of Ornithology.

  • I got into ornithology because I like this,

  • I like being outside and I was really looking for a way to get outside.

  • and to do research that was related to feeder birds, to answer questions that we need to know about feeder birds.

  • So our whole set up here is we have a PVC tube that contains the birdseed.

  • This bin here is a waterproof container that holds all of the electronics.

  • This circle of wire here is actually the antenna that is creating the electromagnetic field

  • that’s probing the surrounding space for the presence of a PIT tag.

  • And whenever a bird lands on here to grab a seed, a bird that’s wearing a PIT tag,

  • it will absorb some of that electromagnetic energy

  • and send a signal back to the antenna,

  • which will then run down through this wire here onto our circuit board.

  • And it’s a pretty simple RIFD unit. It has a memory chip here,

  • and anytime a bird with a PIT tag lands on here,

  • on the circuit board were recording the date,

  • the time to the second,

  • and the ID number of that bird.

  • One of the really neat things about the RIFD technology is that it’s been around since the 70s.

  • It’s not cutting edge technology, it’s in boxes that Walmart uses in distribution centers

  • that tracks the boxes, it’s in our passports.

  • So, passive integrated transponder technology is out there. It has widespread commercial use, which makes it cheap for us

  • because companies are using it like crazy.

  • When this technology came along and that light bulb went off

  • hey, we can actually use this to understand the behavior of the individual birds, around the clock

  • how they feed during the day, their daily patterns of foraging behavior,

  • how that changes throughout the course of the year, how birds switch their diet from season to season.

  • All of these questions we can look at because of these little PIT tags

  • that were putting on the legs of individual birds and tracking their individual behaviors.

  • Live long and prosper.

  • And students really love it.

  • Change the batteryconnect the circuit board to the computer.

  • 4,000 hits at this one.

  • Were tracking about 125 individual birds of four species

  • and from those 125 birds in the last two years we've recorded over

  • 2.2 million visits to the bird feeders that we have out in the woods here.

  • We were blown away and thrilled

  • with the amount of data coming in from this really simple technology.

  • And it's open up a whole world of new research and new avenues that we can travel down

  • and get students involved with to learn more about the natural world, focusing in on common backyard feeder birds

  • which are the model organisms for answering bigger scientific questions.

  • Well just put it back together,

  • fill it up with seed.

  • One of the great powers of citizen science is that weve got people out there

  • watching birds everywhere in all sorts of different ecosystems and environments.

  • And since this technology is relatively inexpensive

  • and easy to use, I think we have the potential to expand,

  • expand this research out and develop a network and answer some of those bigger questions.

For years I’ve been looking for ways to track the feeding behavior of individual birds.

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Tracking Backyard Birds

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    Why Why posted on 2013/03/24
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