Watch: ‘Smart Nest Box’ peeks into birds’ hidden lives

Boreal owls’ fleeting activities are hard to study, but a team of researchers’ Smart Nest Box helps them peer into what happens in the nests of these and other birds. ©Greg Schechter

Watching the boreal owl (Aegolius funereus) arrive and depart from the nest box, it’s easy to feel like you’re watching an episode of “Big Brother” for owls. It appears. It drops off prey. It flies off to do it again. The footage comes from a Smart Nest Box, developed by Czech University of Life Sciences Prague ecologist Markéta Zárybnická and her team. The box involves an infrared light trigger, two cameras, a microphone temperature sensors and a radio-frequency ID reader.

Gathering video from nest boxes isn’t new, Charles Eldermire, Bird Cams project leader at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, tells Audubon, but using several sensors is a novel approach. More than 30 of these boxes have gone up throughout the Czech Republic and Poland, recording over 300,000 videos available online at birdsonline.cz.

Read the Audubon story here.