Terra identifies backyard bird visitors by analyzing their songs

Although many people enjoy tracking which types of birds come through their backyards, they can’t be watching their yards all the time. Terra is designed to help, by continuously identifying birds via their songs.

Created by New Jersey-based naturalists Scott Whittle, Mike Lanzone and Casey Halverson, Terra consists of both a weatherproof device and a planned global system.

The Bluetooth- and Wi-Fi-connected device is stuck in the ground near the user’s bird bath or feeder, where it uses a pair of microphones to listen for bird song. It also contains a radio receiver, to pick up signals from radio-tagged birds. Data is transmitted to both a cloud-based server and an iOS/Android app on the user’s smartphone.

Utilizing the app, users can view a log of which bird species have passed through their yard, as identified by their song. They can also listen to live-streamed bird song from their backyard, on either their phone or a paired Bluetooth speaker. Additionally, plans call for them to be able to listen to live nature sounds from a variety of sites throughout the world, sort of like a global version of the existing Australian Acoustic Observatory. This functionality will be one component of a Terra network that is currently in development.

That network will also be accessible to scientists, who will be able to see which species – and which radio-tagged birds – have passed by the numerous Terra backyard devices. In this way, the researchers will be able to track the populations and migratory routes of different types of birds across the regions in which the devices are sold.

The Terra device is powered by an electrical outlet via an extension cord
The Terra device is powered by an electrical outlet via an extension cord

Terra Project

As an added bonus, the main device is capable of wirelessly communicating with optional smaller sensors that are deployed throughout the yard. These “sub-devices” measure and relay data on soil moisture, weather conditions and flooding (in case the user’s pond should overflow), all of which can be viewed on the app.

Should you be interested, Terra is presently the subject of a Kickstarter campaign. Assuming it reaches production, a pledge of US$145 will get you a device in your choice of two colors. The planned retail price is $179.

Whittle tells us that upon launch, the system ought to be able to identify the majority of birds in the US and Canada, and at least some in the UK. It should be increasingly capable of identifying others, as the technology is developed further.

You can see the system in use, in the video below.

Sources: Kickstarter, Terra Project

Terra bird identification system

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