Some ideas are good and some are for the birds. We’ll check out one that’s both. Today. On Engineering Works!
Everybody knows what a robin looks like. Or a sparrow. But you’ve probably never seen an ivory-billed woodpecker. You’re not alone. They’re supposed to have gone extinct in the 1930s or 1940s. But a couple of years ago, a birdwatcher claimed he saw one in northeastern Arkansas. That got bird experts squawking.
If it was a real ivory-billed woodpecker and not its cousin, the common pileated woodpecker, it’s a big deal. Finding out for sure is going to be tough. The area the elusive bird hides out in is wild and swampy and hard to get around in.
Enter the engineers, with a nifty idea — special high-resolution video cameras and computers that will recognize a bird when it flies in front of the lens. Set up the cameras in places ivory-billed woodpeckers are likely to be found, turn them on and come back every so often to collect the images. A lot easier than splashing through the swamp.
What makes the idea worthwhile is that software loaded into the computers knows what a bird looks like and gets rid of everything that doesn’t look like a bird. That makes scanning the images easier and faster than if the experts had to wade through everything that passed in front of the cameras.
It’s about time for us to fly on out of here. See you later.
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