Rare Birds
4:30 am
Thu June 27, 2013

New Technology Helps Track Rare Birds In Smokies

New voice recognition technology could be used to locate and track rare Smoky Mountain birds like the Prairie Warbler.
New voice recognition technology could be used to locate and track rare Smoky Mountain birds like the Prairie Warbler.
Credit U.S. Fish And Wildlife Service

If you want to find out if a rare bird like the Prairie Warbler is living near you, you can stand out in a field and listen for its call.  But that could take hours.  Or days.  Or months.  And you still might miss it.

Cutting-edge vocal recognition technology being set up and tested in a Kodak, Tennessee field this week could make that process a lot more efficient.  Students from the University of Tennessee's National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBios) are assembling equipment that will record hundreds of hours of bird calls.  A digital waveform of the recordings will be loaded into a computer program being designed by NIMBios researchers that will analyze the sounds of all the birds on the recording and look for "matches" with rare bird species.  If a Prairie Warbler sings, the computer should be able to detect it.

Kelly Sturner, Education and Outreach Coordinator for NIMBios, says the technology is similar to the voice recognition software that allows the automated operator on the other end of the phone to know what you're saying.  Sturner says rangers at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park are eager to use the technology to track and locate rare birds in the park.