Call-independent identification in birds

Elizabeth Fox

    Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

    117 Downloads (Pure)


    [Truncated abstract] The identification of individual animals based on acoustic parameters is a non-invasive method of identifying individuals with considerable advantages over physical marking procedures. One requirement for an effective and practical method of acoustic individual identification is that it is call-independent, i.e. determining identity does not require a comparison of the same call or song type. This means that an individuals identity over time can be determined regardless of any changes to its vocal repertoire, and different individuals can be compared regardless of whether they share calls. Although several methods of acoustic identification currently exist, for example discriminant function analysis or spectrographic cross-correlation, none are call-independent. Call-independent identification has been developed for human speaker recognition, and this thesis aimed to: 1) determine if call-independent identification was possible in birds, using similar methods to those used for human speaker recognition, 2) examine the impact of noise in a recording on the identification accuracy and determine methods of removing the noise and increasing accuracy, 3) provide a comparison of features and classifiers to determine the best method of call-independent identification in birds, and 4) determine the practical limitations of call-independent identification in birds, with respect to increasing population size, changing vocal characteristics over time, using different call categories, and using the method in an open population. ... For classification, Gaussian mixture models and probabilistic neural networks resulted in higher accuracy, and were simpler to use, than multilayer perceptrons. Using the best methods of feature extraction and classification resulted in 86-95.5% identification accuracy for two passerine species, with all individuals correctly identified. A study of the limitations of the technique, in terms of population size, the category of call used, accuracy over time, and the effects of having an open population, found that acoustic identification using perceptual linear prediction and probabilistic neural networks can be used to successfully identify individuals in a population of at least 40 individuals, can be used successfully on call categories other than song, and can be used in open populations in which a new recording may belong to a previously unknown individual. However, identity was only able to be determined with accuracy for less than three months, limiting the current technique to short-term field studies. This thesis demonstrates the application of speaker recognition technology to enable call-independent identification in birds. Call-independence is a pre-requisite for the successful application of acoustic individual identification in many species, especially passerines, but has so far received little attention in the scientific literature. This thesis demonstrates that call-independent identification is possible in birds, as well as testing and finding methods to overcome the practical limitations of the methods, enabling their future use in biological studies, particularly for the conservation of threatened species.
    Original languageEnglish
    QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
    Publication statusUnpublished - 2008


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