Did one know that budgies are the only birds that can catch the urge to yawn from watching other budgies do it? Or that wrens and robins are known to nest in strange places, including hanging baskets or even a pocket in washing that’s left outside to dry?

Birds are fascinating but often hard to observe. Which is where surveillance cameras can help. While these cameras are usually connected with the protection of people and premises – they can also be of use in less typical fields. One being animal observation.

An ornithologist’s tech heaven

Wildlife observation is an important practice. It allows scientists to study organisms and recognise critical changes in behaviours. Some animals, like birds, are more difficult to observe as their natural habitat is often high above the ground or in accessible locations.

Plus, they are very sensitive to factors like noise and human presence. That’s where real-life observation via cameras can help. The educational benefits are immense as animals often behave differently when humans are around – but the cameras provide an insight into the natural behaviour.

Axis cameras have played an important role for several institutions in observing animals around the world, particularly the feathered friends.

American Eagle Foundation (AEF)

The solution was a combination of different PTZ cameras, infrared features, and the ACAP application CamStreamer The American Eagle Foundation (AEF), has made it its mission to protect the bald eagle and other birds of prey. They needed to ensure the security and health of the endangered species as the nests are quite vulnerable. AEF used cameras to do that but without disturbing the eagles during the breeding time. Thus, the cameras needed to withstand harsh weather and provide stable performance and high-resolution.

The solution was a combination of different PTZ cameras, infrared features, and the ACAP application CamStreamer. Altogether, it allowed for 24/7 high-resolution footage that collected important data about the animals’ behaviour and could be watched via live stream. These streams became popular and raised awareness for the endangered species and allowed viewers to learn about the importance of conserving wilderness.

One of the first bald eagle couples observed - ‘Liberty’ and ‘Justice’ - were based in the theme park Dollywood (a U.S. theme park co-owned by country singer Dolly Parton). The bird-parents reared 14 of their oneng over a period of 18 years. Watched by millions but without being disturbed by anyone.

Axis video converter

A similar approach was taken by the Hawk and Owl Trust, a national UK charity when they spotted a rare pair of Peregrine Falcons flying around Norwich Cathedral. The organisation requested to construct a nesting platform with cameras that could record live the breeding process – there had only been one couple recorded in the past 100 years.

Given its location, a wireless connection was needed to provide a live stream. The Axis video converter did the trick as it converted the analogue video signals into high-quality, digital video streams that were sent via an IP network. The footage could then be streamed wirelessly via the iCatcher Console.

The real-time access delivered great insight into the life of these birds and the high quality even allowed the local news station to showcase the project.

Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Deployed network-based surveillance cameras to provide birdwatchers with access to constant live stream The Cornell Lab of Ornithology in Ithaca in the US, deployed network-based surveillance cameras to provide birdwatchers with access to the world of owls, hummingbirds, herons and other species.

This constant live stream revealed new information about breeding behaviour, rituals, food habits and even the impact of environmental pollution has on the animals (e.g. seen in the amount of plastic that the parents fed their chicks).

The applied PTZ and fixed dome cameras partly included infrared features and even audio, to optimise the outcome. What the devices have in common is the high-resolution and reliability, so once installed they remained untouched for the season. The systems were completely controlled remotely, and the videos were.

Ubiavis, an environmental preservation organisation

A similar example, where surveillance technology has been used was in Chile. Ubiavis, an environmental preservation organisation, installed several network cameras with a remote access system in the Lluta River Wetlands.

The footage was put on their interactive website. Given the wide premises that needed to be covered, the organisation implemented next-generation PTZ dome cameras – designed for outdoor use and harsh environments – with 32x optical zoom capability. That way, the viewers get a 1080p HD, wide-area view.

Both live-stream experiences could help people to understand birds better and move them to protect their habitats in the future. Even scientists have got new chances to understand behaviors and observe rituals that had never been seen before. In Chile, the installations also had a security angle for some 20,000 shorebirds as municipal authorities were interested in using them to prevent unauthorised fishing or photographing in the area.

Value of bird broadcasting

In the long run, implementing surveillance cameras benefits both sides: gathering new or additional information about a species can help scientists to take better care of them.

It can show how best to support their lifecycles and protect their habitats. Installing remotely controllable cameras spares the birds the stress of humans coming too close.

For the environmental NGOs, it avoids the work and cost involved in maintaining a whole network of cameras manually. Future features of cameras and analytics can open up new ways to gather and use critical data for the protection of endangered birds and other animals.

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