Game Bird Recall

Managing wildlife populations by mimicking their calls is another job for the Raspberry Pi. Phil King heeds the call of the wild.

Requiring an active population of wild game birds to train her gun-dogs, Martha Zimet has developed a Raspberry Pi-based system to mimic the birds’ rallying calls in order to ‘anchor’ them to a geographic area (magpi.cc/nHzNWA). “In my experience, game birds really train gundogs,” Martha advises. “They teach the dogs to be stealthy, not jump in on the bird, manage their own energy, otherwise, the dog never gets what it desires: the bird in its mouth. Therefore, to train your gundogs, what is required is ‘wild acting’ game birds.” Upon introducing a population of Coturnix (common) quail to her 80-acre Nevada ranch, she developed her own bird recall system to lure them to a specific location. “I do this by providing predator-proof food and water, and a ‘rally call’ for the specific species that effectively calls them back to the location where the food and water are located,” she explains. “The released game birds become feral in about a month and act like wild game birds.”

Caught on camera
Given the system’s remote location, low energy consumption is a key factor. A solar panel hooked up to a backup battery provides the electricity, while a Witty Pi 2 board handles power management. “[It] has a real-time clock based on NTP, and it runs 24/7,” says Martha. “It has programmed events, which execute only during daylight hours, that play the recorded game bird call at specific intervals. During these events, the [Pi NoIR] camera is also active and can record any movement detected and transmit the results to me.” For the latter, Martha is using the Soracom cellular IoT network. “Since I am not transmitting live video from the devices, I can simply use 3G connectivity. It has proven to be very reliable. I use an external antenna to the GSM modem, and everything is enclosed in a waterproof case. I spent well over a month attempting to use WiFi, and even with clear line of sight to my location, high power Yagi antennas were just too wonky.”

Stickler for quality
The whole system took Martha about six months to develop. “A major portion of the time was spent validating components, where the most challenging ones were solar power, batteries, and connectivity. Since the units are installed at remote locations, they just have to work. Given my background, I am a stickler for quality. The [Python] software I wrote – my ‘secret sauce’ – was small in comparison to the validation process.” With a US patent pending, Martha is offering a commercial service to install similar devices in other locations. “Each system I develop is based on user requirements and use cases. So far, there is no way to mass-produce them, but they can be used for any wild game population, and not just game birds.” Martha has been invited to the Yukon next autumn, to evaluate the system for use with the wild moose population. In addition, she reveals: “I have connections in Finland and I have hopes the system could be used by the Sami population with their reindeer herds.”