discussion / AI for Conservation  / 25 May 2022

Can deep learning identify seabirds? (species, within-species, individual)

Hello everyone,

I am looking for insight on the feasibility of identifying seabirds from photos taken at sea (such as these https://www.flickr.com/photos/9191812@N02/albums/72157708853397813)  to different levels of precision:

1) species level. This can already be tested, I think, as it is already implemented in camera trap pictures.

2) phenotype level within species. In some species (for example, the Northern Fulmar https://www.flickr.com/search/?text=northern%20fulmar), a continuous phenotypic gradient exists (for example, from darkest to lightest plumage). I suspect that the difficulty would be in assigning a score - though one end of the gradient could be considered as the typical plumage (100% ID score) and the other end as the aberrant plumage (0% ID score), with scores in between giving a proxy for phenotype.  

3) individual level. Like the BearID Project is able to identify individual bears using face recognition techniques, could deep learning identify individual birds using not only face geometry but also plumage patterns (for example, face, under- and upper-wing patterns as in the Black-capped Petrel https://www.flickr.com/search/?text=black-capped%20petrel)?


Using geo-referenced images, this kind of analyses would help look into species/phenotype distribution. Individual identification could also be used to estimate population sizes (a conservation metric that is missing in several endangered pelagic seabirds).

Hi @YvanSG - the US-based 501c non-profit Wild Me develops AI for individual ID within species and support multiple Wildbooks for a number of different species. I don't believe they have anything currently for any bird species but it's probably worth reaching out to them to discuss further.

I hope that's helpful.



Update: I asked the same question on twitter so I'm sharing answers I got there:


Hi Yvan,

If you find something which reaches your expectation and especially the ability to identify individual with plumage patterns I will be intereted.

In the same idea that Ultralytics, there is : 

Which could probably answer your first and second requirements.


And find here a great website showing all the IA-based camera software, you may find solutions or contact throw this list: