Helicopter-mounted Forward Looking Infrared has mainly been used for large animal censuses. I examined the use of this instrument in locating bird carcasses in agricultural fields to improve current carcass searching techniques. Mallard (Arias platyrhynchos) and northern bobwhite quail (Colinus virginianus) carcasses were measured with an infrared thermometer immediately following death and for 5 consecutive nights to determine the optimal time for detection. Preliminary flights were conducted to design a protocol that was used in test flights. Bird species (mallard versus quail) and cover type (bare ground versus short grass) were compared in the flights. Carcasses were recovered with the aid of Global Positioning Systems. Carcasses remained above ambient ground temperatures for all or part of night 1. Quail carcass temperatures decreased faster than mallard carcasses. In warmer weather, carcass temperatures increased 3-5 nights following death. In colder weather, carcasses were 1-2 C cooler than the ground after the first night. Mallard and quail carcasses were both detected on bare ground and short grass cover types with Forward Looking Infrared. The carcass recovery rates were 40% arid 30% on bare ground and short grass, respectively. There were no significant differences in detection for species or cover type. In warmer weather, carcasses could be detected for several hours following death and again 3-5 nights after death. Carcasses may be detected as objects cooler than the ground in colder weather. Forward Looking Infrared was successful in detecting mallard and quail carcasses. Further research should evaluate improved mapping techniques to enhance carcass recovery.
Additional publication details
The use of forward looking infrared to locate bird carcasses in agricultural areas