Can AI Help Save Birds?

Published on 10 Nov, 2021

Climate change and increasing pollution are some of the factors threatening the planet. Animals and birds suffer the most from environmental degradation as they grapple with loss of habitat, scarcity of food, and meteoric rise in temperature. Technology has come to the rescue of birds in the form of AI. This technology uses algorithms to help researchers and conservationists monitor bird population, their migration patterns and nesting habits as well as endangered species in order to devise strategies to save them.

Birds are crucial to the ecological system. Apart from controlling insect and rodent population, they help in plant pollination and seed dispersal. Technology has generally gained a bad reputation because of its misuse by humans, causing significant harm to the flora and fauna.

Furthermore, global warming has drastically altered their migration patterns. Incidents of birds getting entangled in electric wires, hit by airplanes, stuck in windmills, affected by radiation from cell phone towers, or suffocating by CO2 emissions have also increased.

New-age technology such as AI can aid in saving birds and contributing toward environment conservation. AI is instrumental in gathering and analyzing data that forms the basis of strategies for conservation.

AI assists with bird conservation in the following ways:

  1. Correlation of data – Researchers and conservationists must determine the exact rate of population decline and understand its cause; they must also study the nesting, flying, and migrating patterns of birds. By correlating data, they would be able to formulate conservation strategies. AI-powered image recognition systems can be very beneficial in collecting the right information. Scientists have developed a system that can identify 200 species of birds from a single image using deep learning and algorithms.
  2. Detection and protection – Farmland birds that nest on the ground are highly vulnerable as they are exposed to mechanical operations such as ploughing and sowing, which take place in spring and often accidentally destroy nests. AI has can improve the plight of these birds: drones fitted with a thermal camera and based on AI algorithms identify nests and help to protect them.
  3. Establishment of patterns – Analyzing a large volume of data on the migratory pattern of birds can be labor intensive and time consuming. AI can aid in quick analysis of data collected from computer vision to establish the birds’ migratory pattern. This helps researchers to gain better understanding of avian behavior and save them from potential threats such as oil drilling rigs and tower lights that can come in their path.
  4. Protection from machine – Birds also face the danger of getting sucked into wind turbines, which can be fatal for them. Technologies, such as BirdVision, are helping to prevent such fatalities. BirdVision comprises systems connected with high-performance outdoor industrial cameras that are mounted at the foot of the wind turbine and connected to an image processing server. Through a neural deep learning network, birds that are potentially at risk from wind turbines are detected via intelligent tracking. If any of the endangered birds approaches the turbine, the system registers it and switches off the blades as soon as the bird gets near. Additionally, researchers in the US are conducting studies to minimize risks to birds due to windmills.
  5. Big data – AI can provide a huge amount of data that is of immense value to researchers and conservationists. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has developed an app called eBird that allows bird enthusiasts to share data about the birds they observe around them; for instance, the variety of species that can be found in a certain location. Through this app, conservationists can access valuable data that would have taken hours of fieldwork.

AI helps to save birds and get relevant information about their location, migration patterns, and nesting seasons. By providing access to real-time and accurate data on nature, the technology is helping to protect the winged species, especially those in the endangered bracket. The scope and implementation of AI are slowly expanding, and it is an important component for saving and conserving bird life.