To enable the Kākāpō Recovery team to keep tabs on the kākāpō population, each bird wears a “smart transmitter” that sends out a radio signal to report its position, whether they are alive or dead and how much battery life remains on the transmitter.
Females wear an “egg timer” version of the smart transmitter which also records and analyses the amount of movement she makes in any 24-hour period. The transmitter interprets this information and emits a code, along with its normal radio signal. Rangers record the code and can then work out whether the females are nesting and, if so, how far along into incubation they are.
Males wear a “check mate” version of the smart transmitter which also records and analyses their amount of movement. If the movement suggests they are mating (a more vigorous activity than booming) the transmitter records the behaviour. At the same time, it switches on a mini receiver within the transmitter to detect which female is present. If a female is present, the receiver also detects her level of movement and records it. Just like the egg timers, a code is then emitted along with the normal radio signal.
Rangers then record the code and piece together the puzzle to reveal who has mated with who, when, for how long and the quality of that interaction! This information helps the team prepare for and manage subsequent nests and also helps us to make decisions about which females should be artificially inseminated.