Deep learning-based methods for individual recognition in small birds
ABSTRACTIndividual identification is a crucial step to answer many questions in evolutionary biology and is mostly performed by marking animals with tags. Such methods are well established but often make data collection and analyses time consuming and consequently are not suited for collecting very large datasets.Recent technological and analytical advances, such as deep learning, can help overcome these limitations by automatizing data collection and analysis. Currently one of the bottlenecks
... reventing the application of deep learning for individual identification is the need of hundreds to thousands of labelled pictures required for training convolutional neural networks (CNNs).Here, we describe procedures that improve data collection and allow individual identification in captive and wild birds and we apply it to three small bird species, the sociable weaver Philetairus socius, the great tit Parus major and the zebra finch Taeniopygia guttata.First, we present an automated method that allows the collection of large samples of individually labelled images. Second, we describe how to train a CNN to identify individuals. Third, we illustrate the general applicability of CNN for individual identification in animal studies by showing that the trained CNN can predict the identity of birds from images collected in contexts that differ from the ones originally used to train the CNNs. Fourth, we present a potential solution to solve the issues of new incoming individuals.Overall our work demonstrates the feasibility of applying state-of-the-art deep learning tools for individual identification of birds, both in the lab and in the wild. These techniques are made possible by our approaches that allow efficient collection of training data. The ability to conduct individual identification of birds without requiring external markers that can be visually identified by human observers represents a major advance over current methods.