Software update: Improved bird tagging, Cacophony Index and Morepork tags visible

Update 8 March 2022: This has now been released.

As signalled last year, we are about to release a new version of our software for listening to, tagging and analysing our bird recordings. We have also made some other improvements to viewing thermal videos.

Audio recordings

An important part of our mission to save the birds in New Zealand is to measure the progress that is being made. Our Bird Monitor is an attempt to automate this so measurement can be done widely and consistently across the motu. There are two parts to this, collecting and analysing the recordings.

Our Bird Monitor does a solid job of collecting the recordings. For the analysing part we calculate a Cacophony Index and can automatically identify morepork/ruru. In order to do a good job of the analysing we need to be able to identify many more birds automatically. To do this we need to first collect examples of bird calls and label them so we can train our machine learning algorithms.

The changes we are about to release make this labelling, or tagging as it is also called, easier to do. We hope that this will allow us to gather the data we need to expand the birds that can be automatically identified.

Search results page

The first change you'll notice is that you can now see tags that you have added manually, or that have been added automatically in the search results page. You can also see the Cacophony Index. This makes it easy for you to see recordings that have tags and to find recordings that have lots of bird song.

Audio search results page shows tags and Cacophony Index

 Recordings page


The biggest change you'll see on the recordings page is the inclusion of a spectrogram. This is a visual representation of an audio file, showing the volume of different frequencies. It makes it really easy to see where in the recording there might be something interesting. In the example below a morepork/ruru has been automatically identified by the artificial intelligence.

Audio recordings page with spectrogram

Improved tagging

You can create a tag by selecting an area of the spectrogram. It will then begin to play that section of the recording. You then select a tag from either the buttons, or the drop down list of birds.

The tags are show below the spectrogram. You can click on them and listen to the section of the recording associated with the tag. You can tag it again to confirm or correct a previous tag.

There are also a bunch of other features on this page, including:

  • The ability to delete (and undelete) tags,
  • You can see tag history: who has tagged a section of a recording
  • You can see the technical details of the recording, including the model of the device that made the recording
  • You can navigate to previous or next recordings
  • If you delete the recording, you have the option of undeleting it.
  • You can over over the Cacophony Index graph and see the values.

We will be updating the manual shortly.

Future improvements

We have a number of improvements we plan to make to this, including:


  • Adding the ability to search for tags - so you can easily find recordings that have morepork for example.
  • Allowing more variants in the tags, including gender and adult/juvenile
  • Allowing you to tag other sounds - wind, dogs, and a freeform
  • Improvements to the interface for long recordings
  • Localisation - so we show buttons for the most common birds in your area
  • Include a map on the recordings page as a reminder of where it is
We would also like to start to tagging some recordings of certain species so we can expand our recognition models. What birds would you like us to automatically recognise first?


Filtering thermal video results

Sometimes there can be several videos that don't have any tracks or contain false positives. A new filter checkbox at the top of the search results page allows you to filter these out from the results. If you check it, then the filtered results will be shown with grey around them.

Search results page with results filtered

False positives and videos with no tracks are shown in grey


The full release notes can be viewed here


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