Wildlife Acoustics Blog


Listening for Signs of Life: A case study on using acoustic monitoring to assess remote seabird populations

Biologist Luke Halpin

Biologist Luke Halpin:

“My research takes place in Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, National Marine Conservation Area Reserve and Haida. Heritage Site in Haida Gwaii, an island archipelago off the west coast of British Columbia, 80km west of Prince Rupert. Haida Gwaii is home to 1.5 million breeding seabirds, including 50% of the global Ancient Murrelet population and large nesting populations of several other seabird species. Haida Gwaii is the only breeding location for Ancient Murrelets in Canada.

On Haida Gwaii, invasive rats are a major threat to the conservation of these seabird populations. In 2010, Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve and Haida Heritage Site began a large rat-eradication project called Night Birds Returning (SGin Xaana Sdiihltl’lxa, in the Haida Language) on a number of islands. As a component of this project, I used Song Meters to explore presence and relative abundance of four seabird species on rat-infested and rat-free islands. The species I examined, in collaboration with Dr Carita Bergman, Terrestrial Ecologist in the Parks Canada Agency, includes Ancient Murrelets Synthliboramphus antiquus, Cassin’s Auklets Ptychoramphus aleuticus, Fork-tailed Storm-Petrels Oceanodroma furcata and Leach’s Storm-Petrels Oceanodroma leucorhoa."

Research Process

“I used the Song Meter acoustic data to assess the effect of rat presence on relative abundance of these nocturnal seabirds. I examined relative abundance and the seasonal colony attendance period from presence and absence data derived from the Song Meter acoustic recordings.

Birds pass along secret code to un-hatched chicks

Birds pass along secret code to un-hatched chicks

Before they even hatch, Superb Fairy Wren chicks are learning a secret code that means everything for their survival. The mothers of the chicks sing a special “password” note to their un-hatched chicks, which they must recite once hatched, in order to be fed. No password, no food.

It may seem a bit paranoid on the mother’s part, but there is a very good reason for them to be suspicious. That’s because Cuckoo birds have been known to secretly plant their eggs in Fairy Wren nests. Once the baby cuckoos hatch, they are fed and raised by the surrogate mother. The “pass-note” method then, helps the mother to distinguish which chicks are hers and which are cuckoos. The mother is thought to start singing the note about 10 days after the eggs are laid, giving the chicks just five days to learn it. Cuckoos often only have two days in the nest and therefore don’t have enough time to learn the note. This method isn’t quite foolproof, though. The mothers only catch the cuckoos around 40% of the time. Oftentimes the cuckoo chicks happen to sing the note by trying multiple calls.

Perhaps soon enough the Cuckoos will come up with a counter-strategy of their own for cracking the code. In the meantime, visit our website and learn how our Song Meter SM2+, accessories, Song Stream Remote Access Module and Song Scope software can make your bird call collection and analysis work faster and easier.

How to get the most out of your SM2+ recorder

How to get the most out of your SM2+ recorder

Hello again All,

So, pop quiz, what firmware revision are your SM2s running? Right now? Do you know where your firmware is?

All joking aside, keeping your firmware updated is one of the easiest ways to make sure that your SM2 recorders are running up to snuff. Every time our engineering staff releases a new version, you can be assured that bugs will be fixed and (maybe) a few new features will be added. Let’s take a look one of the great things that the latest firmware revision as of this writing (3.2.5) holds for you: the SD Card Speed Test.

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