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J Acoust Soc Am. 2006 May;119(5 Pt 1):2832-9.

Accuracy of an acoustic location system for monitoring the position of duetting songbirds in tropical forest.

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Department of Biological Sciences, University of Windsor, 401 Sunset Avenue, Windsor, Ontario, Canada.


A field test was conducted on the accuracy of an eight-microphone acoustic location system designed to triangulate the position of duetting rufous-and-white wrens (Thryothorus rufalbus) in Costa Rica's humid evergreen forest. Eight microphones were set up in the breeding territories of 20 pairs of wrens, with an average intermicrophone distance of 75.2+/-2.6 m. The array of microphones was used to record antiphonal duets broadcast through stereo loudspeakers. The positions of the loudspeakers were then estimated by evaluating the delay with which the eight microphones recorded the broadcast sounds. Position estimates were compared to coordinates surveyed with a global-positioning system (GPS). The acoustic location system estimated the position of loudspeakers with an error of 2.82+/-0.26 m and calculated the distance between the "male" and "female" loudspeakers with an error of 2.12+/-0.42 m. Given the large range of distances between duetting birds, this relatively low level of error demonstrates that the acoustic location system is a useful tool for studying avian duets. Location error was influenced partly by the difficulties inherent in collecting high accuracy GPS coordinates of microphone positions underneath a lush tropical canopy and partly by the complicating influence of irregular topography and thick vegetation on sound transmission.

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