The whooping cranes are the tallest birds in North America, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The rare birds dropped to a population of just 14 in 1941, and although numbers have increased to around 600, they’re still an endangered species. To help increase the whooping crane’s survival, Louisiana wildlife biologists have devised a plan that brings them right into the birds’ nests.
Eight “spy eggs” from the Calgary Zoo are really data loggers in disguise that use infrared links to transmit its findings to computers. The spy eggs will take the place of one or two real eggs, but the ones removed will still be safe. They will be incubated offsite and returned to the nest right before hatching begins, according to the Associated Press (AP).
While they’re in the nest, the loggers will gather intel on position, humidity, and temperate every minute. AP reports they’ll also ping the computers if they’ve been turned over. The data will help scientists understand why some eggs fail to hatch, and the whooping crane’s wild nest incubation habits, which can improve the hatch rate of incubated eggs.
Tests were conducted last year to ensure the whooping cranes didn’t mind the egg swaps, AP explains. The scientists say it’ll be years until any conclusions can be made.
Whooping cranes join ranks of other bird species targeted in technology-based conservation efforts. Earlier this year, ECN reported the wandering albatross was getting help from radar tags that track their whereabouts to better understand how often and where the birds come in contact with fishing vessels.