Video recording and visual observation have long been used to document animal behavior in order to answer questions concerning territory, distribution and reproductive behavior. However, these methods are time consuming, often inexact and cannot be used under poor visual conditions. Improved animal tracking data can be achieved by using radio frequency identification (RFID) tags. RFID systems consist of a transponder and a reading device, electromagnetic fields are used to automatically identify and track transponders attached to objects. Transponders contain electronically stored information on memory chips. To retrieve this information, the reading device generates an alternating electromagnetic field powering the transponder for sending the data. Transponders send their signal continuously as soon as they get enough energy through the electromagnetic field and enter the reception area of the RFID reader. Thus, this system works very fast but also has very high power consumption.
This high consumption results in the requirement to frequently change the power source, which is a limiting problem, especially during animal behavior observations.
Scientists of the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology developed a RFID Management System. This RFID Management System is designed for flexible, mobile operation in field. Therefore, the RFID-MS is inter alia supplied with a RFID reader, a memory card, a microcontroller and its own power supply. Based on this, the RFID-MS can work autonomously and is compatible with different types of RFID systems and therefore applicable to the tracking of any animal that can be marked with a RFID system. Additionally, the RFID-MS is connectable with different RFID triggers such as; light barriers or infrared detectors. Using triggers the RFID-MS collects data only after being activated by the trigger; it then reverts back to stand-by mode after a predefined time period. Thereby the RFID-MS is only sporadically active and collects data of single events and not complete time periods. This leads to very low power consumption, the collection of selected events, while requiring only periodic battery and memory card changes. This in turn increases the quality of the animal behavior observations by decreasing disturbance to the animals.
The RFID Management System allows for the effective observation of animal behavior by