We present an interdisciplinary effort to record feeding behaviors and control the diet of a hummingbird species (Phaethornis longirostris
, the long-billed hermit or LBH) by developing a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) based smart feeder. The system contains an RFID reader, a microcontroller, and a servo-controlled hummingbird feeder opener; the system is presented as a tool for studying the cognitive ability of the LBH species. When equipped with glass capsule RFID tags (which are mounted on the hummingbird), the smart feeder can provide specific diets for predetermined sets of hummingbirds at the discretion of biologists. This is done by reading the unique RFID tag on the hummingbirds and comparing the ID number with the pre-programmed ID numbers stored in the smart feeder. The smart feeder records the time and ID of each hummingbird visit. The system data is stored in a readily available SD card and is powered by two 9 V batteries. The detection range of the system is approximately 9–11 cm. Using this system, biologists can assign the wild hummingbirds to different experimental groups and monitor their diets to determine if they develop a preference to any of the available nectars. During field testing, the smart feeder system has demonstrated consistent detection (when compared to detections observed by video-recordings) of RFID tags on hummingbirds and provides pre-designed nectars varying water and sugar concentrations to target individuals. The smart feeder can be applied to other biological and environmental studies in the future.
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