A video surveillance system to monitor breeding colonies of common terns (Sterna Hirundo)

Journal of Visualized Experiments
By: , and 



Many waterbird populations have faced declines over the last century, including the common tern (Sterna hirundo), a waterbird species with a widespread breeding distribution, that has been recently listed as endangered in some habitats of its range. Waterbird monitoring programs exist to track populations through time; however, some of the more intensive approaches require entering colonies and can be disruptive to nesting populations. This paper describes a protocol that utilizes a minimally invasive surveillance system to continuously monitor common tern nesting behavior in typical ground-nesting colonies. The video monitoring system utilizes wireless cameras focused on individual nests as well as over the colony as a whole, and allows for observation without entering the colony. The video system is powered with several 12 V car batteries that are continuously recharged using solar panels. Footage is recorded using a digital video recorder (DVR) connected to a hard drive, which can be replaced when full. The DVR may be placed outside of the colony to reduce disturbance. In this study, 3,624 h of footage recorded over 63 days in weather conditions ranging from 12.8 °C to 35.0 °C produced 3,006 h (83%) of usable behavioral data. The types of data retrieved from the recorded video can vary; we used it to detect external disturbances and measure nesting behavior during incubation. Although the protocol detailed here was designed for ground-nesting waterbirds, the principal system could easily be modified to accommodate alternative scenarios, such as colonial arboreal nesting species, making it widely applicable to a variety of research needs.

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title A video surveillance system to monitor breeding colonies of common terns (Sterna Hirundo)
Series title Journal of Visualized Experiments
DOI 10.3791/57928
Volume 137
Year Published 2018
Language English
Contributing office(s) Patuxent Wildlife Research Center
Description e57928
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