Spying on seabirds: a review of time-lapse photography capabilities and limitations
* Correspondence author. Email: email@example.com
Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, New Radcliffe House, Woodstock Rd. OX2 6GG, Oxford, UK.
Recent technological advances in the remote monitoring of wildlife have extended the possibilities of remote sensing methods, making camera systems both easily accessible and relevant to a greater range of research interests (Swann et al. 2011). Traditionally, cameras have focused on photographing one individual, identified by distinct markings, by either taking motion-triggered photographs or using handheld devices to study an animal opportunistically (Cutler & Swann 1999). However, in cases where wildlife can be photographed in groups, alternative methods may prove more effective in terms of data output, time in the field, and expense. In particular, time-lapse photography, defined here as a camera system installed at a field site and programmed to take an image at a set frequency, has recently become more accessible to researchers and has great capabilities for the study of animals living in groups. To demonstrate these abilities and highlight possible limitations of time-lapse techniques, I review past uses of camera systems and how they may be applied, or have been applied, to the study of colonial wildlife with a focus on seabirds.
I would like to thank Quark Expeditions for financial support during the preparation of this manuscript. I would also like to thank Drs Tom Hart, Michelle Taylor, Anni Djurhuus, and anonymous reviewers for editing earlier drafts, which greatly improved the manuscript content.
Glacier velocities from time-lapse photos: technique development and first results from the Extreme Ice Survey (EIS) in Greenland. Journal of Glaciology 56: 723–734.
Community structure and diversity of tropical forest mammals: data from a global camera trap network. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences 366: 2703–2711.
First confirmed record of a Common Tern Sterna hirundo breeding at one year of age. Bird Study 60: 275–279.
Estimating the relative abundance of emperor penguins at inaccessible colonies using satellite imagery. Polar Biology 30: 1565–1570.
GenBank. Nucleic Acids Research 36: D25–D30.
Why Huddle? Ecological Drivers of Chick Aggregations in Gentoo Penguins, Pygoscelis papua, across Latitudes. PLoS ONE 11: e0145676.
Peeking into the bleak midwinter - investigating nonbreeding strategies of penguins using a camera network. Auk 134: 520–529.
Time-lapse cameras reveal latitude and season influence breeding phenology durations in penguins. Ecology and Evolution 8: 8286–8296.
Time-lapse imagery of Adélie penguins reveals differential winter strategies and breeding site occupation. PLoS ONE 13: e0193532.
Common murre abundance, phenology, and productivity on the Barren Islands, Alaska: The Exxon Valdez oil spill and long-term environmental change. Exxon Valdez oil spill: Fate and effects in Alaskan waters. ASTM International. DOI: 10.1520/STP19882S.
Seabird recovery following the Exxon Valdez oil spill: why was murre recovery controversial? International Oil Spill Conference. American Petroleum Institute 2: 1521–1526
Aerial surveys of seabirds: the advent of digital methods. Journal of Applied Ecology 49: 960–967.
https://www.ccamlr.org/en/system/files/CEMP%20Standard%20Methods%20Jun%202014.pdf). Accessed 22 November 2018.CCAMLR Ecosystem Monitoring Program: standard methods (
Predation of Blacklegged Kittiwake chicks Rissa tridactyla by a Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus: insights from time-lapse Cameras. Wilson Journal of Ornithology 126: 158–161.
Use of flooded timber by waterfowl at the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge. Journal of Wildlife Management 33: 829–842.
Feeding ecology of great tits (Parus major) and blue tits (Parus caeruleus), breeding in suburban gardens. Journal of Animal Ecology 57: 611–626.
First record of hybridisation between Northern Eudyptes moseleyi and Southern Rockhopper Penguins E. c. chrysocome. Seabird 28: 37–42.
Using remote photography in wildlife ecology: a review. Wildlife Society Bulletin 27: 571–581.
Avian Incubation: Behaviour, Environment and Evolution. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
Kite aerial photography: a low-cost method for monitoring seabird colonies. Journal of Field Ornithology 86:173–179.
A quantitative analysis of the incubation behavior of the Adelie Penguin. Auk 94: 552–566.
http:// eprints.lincoln.ac.uk/2207/1/biodivgrid08pld.pdf). Accessed 12 November 2018.Autonomous monitoring of cliff nesting seabirds using computer vision. In: International Workshop on Distributed Sensing and Collective Intelligence in Biodiversity Monitoring, Amsterdam (
http://homepages.inf.ed.ac.uk/rbf/VAIB10PAPERS/VAIB10pldqc_final.pdf). Accessed 12 November 2018.Automated visual monitoring of nesting seabirds. In: Workshop on Visual Observation and Analysis of Animal and Insect Behaviour, Istanbul (
Sloop: A pattern retrieval engine for individual animal identification. Pattern Recognition 48: 1059–1073.
New Zealand king shag (Leucocarbo carunculatus) foraging distribution and use of mussel farms in Admiralty Bay, Marlborough Sounds. Notornis 59: 105–115.
Using kitebased aerial photography for conducting Adelie penguin censuses in Antarctica. Waterbirds 22: 435–440.
An emperor penguin population estimate: the first global, synoptic survey of a species from space. PLoS ONE 7: e33751.
Spatially explicit inference for open populations: estimating demographic parameters from camera-trap studies. Ecology 91: 3376–3383.
Determining food requirements in marine top predators: a comparison of three independent techniques in Great Cormorants, Phalacrocorax carbo carbo. Canadian Journal of Zoology 78: 1567–1579.
Variability in colony attendance of crevice-nesting Horned Puffins: implications for population monitoring. Journal of Wildlife Management 69: 1279–1296.
Seabird behavior as an indicator of food supplies: sensitivity across the breeding season. Marine Ecology Progress Series 352: 269–274.
Prey density and the behavioral flexibility of a marine predator: the common murre (Uria aalge). Ecology 88: 2024–2033.
Estimating the population structure of Javan rhinos (Rhinoceros sondaicus) in Ujung Kulon National Park using the mark-recapture method based on video and camera trap identification. Pachyderm 49: 90–99.
Breeding performance of puffins Fratercula arctica in relation to nest density, laying date and year. Ibis 122: 193–209.
The effect of the wreck of seabirds in February 1983 on auk populations on the Isle of May (Fife). Bird Study 31: 103–110.
The use of webcams to monitor the prolonged autumn attendance of Guillemots on the Isle of May in 2015. Scottish Birds. 36: 3–9
The determination of glacier speed by time-lapse photography under unfavorable conditions. Journal of Glaciology 38: 257–265.
Activity Patterns and Monitoring Numbers of Horned Puffins and Parakeet Auklets. Waterbirds 25: 348–357.
Attendance patterns of murres at breeding sites: implications for monitoring. Journal of Wildlife Management 53: 483–493.
GPSloggers influence behaviour and physiology in the black-legged kittiwake Rissa tridactyla. Marine Ecology Progress Series 521: 237–248.
Evaluating the Responses of Least Terns, Common Terns, Black Skimmers, and Gull-billed Terns to Military and Civilian Aircraft and to Human Recreation at Cape Lookout National Seashore, North Carolina. PhD thesis, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.
Remote time-lapse photography as a monitoring tool for colonial breeding seabirds: a case study using thick-billed murres (Uria lomvia). Waterbirds 36: 330–341.
Breeding and fledging behaviour of the Chatham Taiko (Magenta petrel) Pterodroma magentae, and predator activity at burrows. Marine Ornithology 31:193–197.
Time-lapse imagery and volunteer classifications from the Zooniverse Penguin Watch project. Scientific Data 5: 180124.
The Movebank data model for animal tracking. Environmental Modelling & Software 26: 834–835.
A history of camera trapping. In: O’Connel, A. F., Nichols, J. D. & Karanth, K. U. (eds.) Camera Traps in Animal Ecology: 9–26. Springer, New York.
Applications of Very High-Resolution Imagery in the Study and Conservation of Large Predators in the Southern Ocean. Conservation Biology 28: 1731–1735.
A method for estimating colony sizes of Adélie penguins using remote sensing imagery. Polar Biology 37: 507–517.
Modelling state uncertainty with photo series data for the estimation of breeding success in a cliff-nesting seabird. Journal of Ornithology 152: 477–483.
http://www.seapop.no/opencms/export/sites/SEAPOP/no/filer/short-reports/2010/SEAPOP-Short-Report-08-2010.pdf) SEAPOP Short Report, 8-2010. Accessed 12 November 2018.Estimating chick survival in cliff-nesting seabirds - a hazard made easy with monitoring cameras. (
Timing of clutch initiation in Pygoscelis penguins on the Antarctic Peninsula: towards an improved understanding of off-peak census correction factors. CCAMLR Science 16: 149–165.
First global census of the Adélie Penguin. Auk 131: 457–466.
A high-resolution panorama camera system for monitoring colony-wide seabird nesting behaviour. Methods in Ecology and Evolution 6: 491–499.
Why is the last Thick-billed Murre Uria lomvia colony in central West Greenland heading for extinction? Bird Conservation International 26: 1–15.
Use of time-lapse photography and digital image analysis to estimate breeding success of a cliff-nesting seabird. Journal of Field Ornithology 87: 84–95.
A new ‘view’ of ecology and conservation through animal-borne video systems. Trends in Ecology & Evolution 22: 660–668.
https://www2.dmu.dk/pub/fr749.pdf). National Environmental Research Institute, Technical Report 749, Aarhus University. Accessed 12 November 2018.Thick-billed Murre studies in Disko Bay (Ritenbenk), West Greenland (
A photographic study of seabird attendance at Moray Firth colonies outside the breeding season. Bird Study 34: 28–36.
The population status of seabirds on St. Matthew and Hall islands, 1985 and 1986. Unpublished Minerals Management Service Report, Department of the Interior, USA.
An automated camera system for remote monitoring in polar environments. Cold Regions Science and Technology 55: 47–51.
A Versatile Time-Lapse Camera System Developed by the HawaiianVolcano Observatory for Use at Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii. US Geological Survey 4: 8.
Caspian Terns (Hydroprogne caspia) Fledge a Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis) Chick: Successful Waterbird Adoption Across Taxonomic Families. Waterbirds 36: 385–389.
Sea ice loss enhances wave action at the Arctic coast. Geophysical Research Letters 38: 1–6.
Foraging behavior of the American oystercatcher Haematopus palliatus pitanay (Murphy 1925) on the intertidal ascidian Pyura praeputialis (Heller 1878) in the Bay of Antofagasta, Chile. Journal of Ethology 19: 23–26.
Influence of group size and habitat type on reproductive success in Common Murres (Uria aalge). Auk 112: 390–401.
A traffic survey of Microtus-Reithrodontomys runways. Journal of Mammalogy 40: 169–180.
Colony attendance and population monitoring of least and crested auklets on St. Lawrence Island, Alaska. Condor 92: 97–106.
Predation by Australasian harrier (Circus approximans) of little shag (Phalacrocorax melanoleucos) clutches. Notornis 49: 266–268.
First investigation of the consumption of seal carcasses by terrestrial and marine scavengers. Glasgow Naturalist 26: 32–100.
A protocol for the aerial survey of penguin colonies using UAVs. Journal of Unmanned Vehicle Systems 3: 95–101.
Review and meta-analysis of camera effects on avian nest success. Journal of Wildlife Management 73: 287–293.
http://www.evostc.state.ak.us/Store/AnnualReports/1995-95163-Annual.pdf). Alaska Natural Heritage Program. Accessed 12 November 2018.APEX: Alaska predator ecosystem experiment. Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Restoration Project. Restoration Project 95163 (
A device of an auto-cinematic food-recorder. Japanese Journal of Ornithology 15: 172–176.
A simple, inexpensive video camera setup for the study of avian nest activity. Journal of Field Ornithology 76: 293–297.
Best practices and software for the management and sharing of camera trap data for small and large scales studies. Remote Sensing in Ecology and Conservation 3: 158–172.
Spotting the difference: towards fully-automated population monitoring of African penguins Spheniscus demersus. Endangered Species Research 11: 101–111.
Camera trap, line transect census and track surveys: a comparative evaluation. Biological Conservation 114: 351–355.
Weather, ice, and snow conditions at Deception Island, Antarctica: long time-series photographic monitoring. Deep Sea Research Part II: Topical Studies in Oceanography 50: 1649–1664.
First comprehensive abundance survey of a newly discovered Adélie penguin breeding metapopulation in the Robinson Group of islands, Mac. Robertson Land, East Antarctica. Antarctic Science 26: 265–266.
Remotely-operating camera network expands Antarctic seabird observations of key breeding parameters for ecosystem monitoring and management. Journal for Nature Conservation 23: 1–8.
https://www.ccamlr.org/en/wg-emm-15/44). Accessed 22 November 2018.The importance of standardising and validating new methods for CEMP to maintain the robustness of long-term time series. Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources: WG-EMM-15/44 (
Re-constructing historical Adélie penguin abundance estimates by retrospectively accounting for detection bias. PLoS ONE: e0123540.
Large-scale population assessment informs conservation management for seabirds in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean: A case study of Adélie penguins. Global Ecology and Conservation 9: 104–15.
The telltale heart: a non-invasive method to determine the energy expenditure of incubating Great Cormorants >. Ardea 87: 207–215.
A new approach to study of seabird-fishery overlap: Connecting chick feeding with parental foraging and overlap with fishing vessels. Global Ecology and Conservation 4: 632–644.
Automated techniques for measuring meal size in great albatrosses. New Zealand Journal of Ecology 41: 120–125.
Evaluating types and features of camera traps in ecological studies: a guide for researchers. In: O’Connel, A. F., Nichols, J. D. & Karanth, K. U. (eds.) Camera Traps in Animal Ecology: 9–26. Springer, New York.
Effects of long-term physical disturbance by commercial scallop fishing on subtidal epifaunal assemblages and habitats. Marine Biology 132: 325–337.
Seabird monitoring handbook for Britain and Ireland: a compilation of methods for survey and monitoring of breeding seabirds. Joint Nature Conservation Committee, Peterborough.
Predation of Atlantic Petrel chicks by house mice on Gough Island. Animal Conservation 15: 472–479.
Can predation by invasive mice drive seabird extinctions? Biology Letters 3: 241–244.
Short retention times of stomach temperature loggers in free-living seabirds: is there hope in the spring? Marine Biology 130: 559–566.
Time-budgets of common murres at a declining and increasing colony in Alaska. Condor 101: 149–152.>