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Analysis of the Optimal Duration of Behavioral Observations Based on an Automated Continuous Monitoring System in Tree Swallows (Tachycineta bicolor): Is One Hour Good Enough?
Lendvai, Adam Z.
Ouyang, Jenny Q.
Domalik, Alice D.
St John, Prianka S.
Moore, Ignacio T.
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Studies of animal behavior often rely on human observation, which introduces a number of limitations on sampling. Recent developments in automated logging of behaviors make it possible to circumvent some of these problems. Once verified for efficacy and accuracy, these automated systems can be used to determine optimal sampling regimes for behavioral studies. Here, we used a radio-frequency identification (RFID) system to quantify parental effort in a bi-parental songbird species: the tree swallow (Tachycineta bicolor). We found that the accuracy of the RFID monitoring system was similar to that of video-recorded behavioral observations for quantifying parental visits. Using RFID monitoring, we also quantified the optimum duration of sampling periods for male and female parental effort by looking at the relationship between nest visit rates estimated from sampling periods with different durations and the total visit numbers for the day. The optimum sampling duration (the shortest observation time that explained the most variation in total daily visits per unit time) was 1h for both sexes. These results show that RFID and other automated technologies can be used to quantify behavior when human observation is constrained, and the information from these monitoring technologies can be useful for evaluating the efficacy of human observation methods.