frame forward or backward provided students with flexible video
playback control. When bird activity was high, students were able
to slowly progress through the video using the playback features mentioned, or observe the activities of one bird at a time and then rewind
to observe another bird.
The FeederWatch webcam allowed my ornithology students
to conduct a research project without the logistical challenges
associated with observing wild birds in person. Although the
project quantified feeder use, other research topics could have
been addressed with the video samples, such as behavioral interactions between individual birds at the feeders or variability in
time spent by individuals/species during feeding bouts. In a
100-level biology course I taught during the same semester, students made observations of an active Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leuco-cephalus) nest located in Florida via a publicly popular webcam
( http://www.dickpritchettrealestate.com/). For that project, I had
the students compile a journal chronicling the behavioral development of the lone eaglet in the nest and its interaction with
the parents. There are webcams viewing the nests of many species
of birds (see https://www.viewbirds.com/), thus providing opportunities for studies of incubation and nesting activities. Some nest
webcams incorporate infrared lights so that night-time activities
can be viewed. There is a wide variety of invertebrate and vertebrate animals that are the focus of webcams (see webcams at
www.mangolinkcam.com and www.explore.org), thus providing
opportunities to address research questions related to behavior
and ecology in diverse animal groups.
In summary, the diversity of animal-centric webcams currently
available on the Internet provides unique opportunities for the
development of research projects that can be carried out by college
students. Webcams can be utilized to study various aspects of animal
behavior and ecology without actual field visits, but technological
aspects of webcams, computers, screen capture applications, and
Internet bandwidth need to be considered when evaluating potential
webcam use. Video recorded from webcam views provides convenient and easy to use samples that can be re-played any number of
Thanks to Ben Walters, Bird Cams communication specialist at the
Cornell Lab of Ornithology, for providing information about the
feeders, and direct coordination and assistance with operation of the
feeders and the webcam. Thanks also to the staff at the Wild Birds
Unlimited store at the lab for helping to maintain and fill the feeders.
Lastly, I would like to thank the students in my ornithology course for
being the “guinea pigs” in this pilot webcam project.
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BRUCE EICHHORST ( firstname.lastname@example.org) is an Assistant Professor in
the Zoology Department at Southern Illinois University, 1125 Lincoln Drive,
Mail Code 6501, Carbondale, IL 62901, USA. This work was conducted
while he was an Assistant Professor of Biology at St. Cloud State
University, St. Cloud, MN 56301.