OSB archive
OSB archive

Something to crow about

Pete Wilton

Last year Oxford introduced the world to the wonders of 'crowcam': a new way of spying on the behaviour of wild birds using a combination of radio tracking and miniature video cameras. It was the first time that wild birds had been observed in this way and revealed some fascinating insights into the natural behaviour of Caledonian crows.

Now researchers Christian Rutz and Lucas Bluff, of Oxford's Department of Zoology, have created a guide for anyone wanting to follow in their pioneering flight path and video track other wild birds - or indeed mammals and reptiles. Their 'how to' guide is the highlight of this week's Biology Letters and comes complete with helpful diagrams and even an animation to show how the technology works and how it can be used.

Perhaps because the footage from the tiny, tail-mounted cameras isn't as flash as you'll find on nature documentaries I think the scientific importance and usefulness of it was underestimated at the time (despite some very nice coverage - everyone loves crows!). It will be interesting to see how other researchers adapt the technique to take a peek into the wild behaviour of other species. Do salamanders have a secret life? Are hedgehogs and robins as cuddly as everyone thinks? The answers could surprise us and, more importantly, open up new avenues of research.

More details at Oxford's Behavioural Ecology Group