Article published in the September 2019 Issue of Zoobiology
Full Download: https://doi.org/10.1002/zoo.21514
The use of radio frequency identification (RFID) technology is common in animal‐monitoring applications in the wild and in zoological and agricultural settings. RFID is used to track animals and to collect information about movements and other behaviors, as well as to automate or improve husbandry. Disney’s Animal Kingdom® uses passive RFID technology to monitor nest usage by a breeding colony of northern carmine bee‐eaters. We implemented RFID technologies in various equipment configurations, initially deploying low‐frequency (LF) 125 kHz RFID and later changing to high‐frequency (HF) 13.56 MHz RFID technology, to monitor breeding behavior in the flock. We installed antennas connected to RFID readers at the entrances of nest tunnels to detect RFID transponders attached to leg bands as birds entered and exited tunnels. Both LF‐RFID and HF‐RFID systems allowed the characterization of nest visitation, including the timing of nest activity, breeding pair formation, identification of egg‐laying females, participation by nonresidents, and detection of nest disruptions. However, we collected a substantially larger volume of data using the increased bandwidth and polling speed inherent with HF‐RFID, which permitted tag capture of multiple birds simultaneously and resulted in fewer missed nest visits in comparison to LF‐RFID. Herein, we describe the evolution of the RFID setups used to monitor nest usage for more than 7 years, the types of data that can be gained using RFID at nests, and how we used these data to gain insights into carmine bee‐eater breeding behavior and improve husbandry.
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