12 Jan Getting to understand birds – with your mobile phone
Getting to understand birds – with your mobile phone
Getting fed up with that seagull that always covers your balcony in bird poop instead of your neighbour’s? Now there’s an app (developed by the UvA institute IBED) to find out why the little guy prefers your turf. Plus many other secrets of bird behaviour!
What the app does
The app is called ‘Vogel het Uit!’ (‘Figure it Out!’ in Dutch, with a play on the word ‘vogel’ which means ‘bird’). It’s a cool communal way of researching bird behaviour. By marking and describing locations where birds behave remarkably – such as your balcony – you and anyone else can help discover the secrets of bird behaviour.
How to use the app
- Download the free app ‘Vogel het Uit!’ (iOS and Android)
- Go to one of the app’s bird-spots
- Observe the birds and their environment
- Submit your answers to the app questions
- Enjoy nature and the fact that you just contributed to science!
A tip: make this a date with that class mate you like! What could be more romantic then cycling to a meadow to spot birds together?
The research behind it
For IBED’s project Bird Tracking System (BiTS), various types of migrating birds were equipped with small GPS backpacks to track their flight path. Using tri-axial accelerometry it even becomes clear when a bird is fishing, walking or chilling. But BiTS can’t tell us much about the specific environments where birds hang out – that’s where the ‘Vogel het Uit!’-app (and you!) come in.
The app was launched in May 2014, so the data are just starting to pour in. For example, it turns out that some of Holland’s lesser black-backed gulls (yes that’s a real name) don’t spend the winter in Africa or even Spain, but in cold and rainy England. Remarkable behaviour!
Be a bird spotter
So have you ever noticed birds doing extraordinary things? Maybe around the Science Park? Let me know in the comments (and submit it in the app)!