Technology has been very kind to bird lovers, with the likes of apps such as the Merlin Bird ID app allowing enthusiasts of all levels to easily identify their feathered friends in the neighborhood. Until recently, this required a guidebook or more expensive monitoring devices.
Now, the BirdWeather PUC (Portable Universe Codec) from Scribe Labs wants to take that to another level, by letting you gather all the data passively, leaving you able to also enjoy the world around you at the same time. It packs plenty of the features of equipment you’d expect to find in ecological fieldwork studies, but without the price tag.
The small weatherproof device, which can fit into the palm of a hand, has dual digital MEMs microphones, is Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS enabled, and has AI-powered environmental sensors to track weather, light and air quality, and a built-in neural engine for data gathering and processing.
Simply set it up in the backyard or clip it to a backpack while on a hike or cycle and let it do the work for you. It continuously listens and identifies birds around you, and can ID multiple species singing at once, from a database of around 6,000 species across the globe. It records the data on an SD card, so you can look at the data at a more convenient time.
The system has three parts: the freestanding PUC device, which can be clipped to a bag or onto a tripod, the BirdWeather mobile app that receives all the PUC data, and a web-based dashboard that lets you not just map your own data and listen to individual calls, but listen to vocalizations from around the globe.
It’s essentially plug-and-play, with one button to activate and also one button to sync with your smartphone or PC, via an app, to review all the birds it identified. It’s particularly useful for those hard-to-see species, especially at night, and for the more people-shy tree residents. Setting up the BirdWeather PUC at home can also capture the dawn cacophony outside, while you can sleep through it and review later.
The device uses the BirdNET neural network from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the Chemnitz University of Technology to process audio soundscapes. It can detect non-avian species such as dogs and squirrels, but it will automatically weed out soundscapes that feature human voices.
In the BirdWeather library, you’ll find more than 173 million bird vocalizations. Through this, data nerds can also observe things like changes in behavior due to disturbances like storms and wildfires, and see migratory maps based on shifting bird call locations.
It’s powered by three AA batteries, comes with a 32-GB microSD card that can be swapped out, and also has a USB-C power and data connection.
The BirdWeather PUC is available for a limited time at a discounted rate on Kickstarter, beginning at US$199 for one unit, or $349 for two. It currently ships to around 35 countries, with delivery estimated to start from December if the crowdfunding campaign goes to plan. There are also a host of add-ons for the basic unit, including a tripod, extra clips (one is included) and backpack.
Check out the BirdWeather Instagram to see the kinds of birds around the world users have sampled.
To see how the device connects with your smartphone or computer, check out this demo below.