The rare red kites that keep blogs about their flights


By Douglas Heaven (Image: Fergus Gill/Naturepl.com) EVER wondered what birds of prey are getting up to when they fly off over the horizon? Wonder no more, thanks to Blogging Birds, a website that generates blog posts on behalf of four red kites in Scotland. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is keen to give the public information about the behaviour of red kites, which nearly went extinct in the UK before being reintroduced from 1989. Advaith Siddharthan at the University of Aberdeen and his colleagues developed a system in collaboration with the RSPB that mines data from sensors attached to the birds and generates natural-language blog posts to accompany interactive flight maps. To spice up the posts, the system mixes in information about red kites’ typical behaviour. For example, in a week in which one of the birds, called Millie, flew a long way for a kite, the blog begins: “This week, Millie flew around an astonishing 261 miles.” And if a bird visits an area known to be grassland, say, the system can speculate that it may be feeding on rabbits or pheasant. Any animal tagged with location sensors can feature in such a system, the team claims. They presented the work at a meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics in Sofia, Bulgaria, last month. This article appeared in print under the headline “Hear all about the flights of the rare red kites” More on these topics:
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