A guide for ecologists to build a low-cost selective trap using radio frequency identification detection

  • Magali MeniriEmail author
  • Anthony Farley
  • Fabrice Helfenstein
  • Nicolas Fasel
Methods Papers


Behavioral studies often aim to perform specific actions on focal individuals and could benefit from automated procedures. With this paper, our goal is to demonstrate to ecologists that building a selective, automated device triggered by radio frequency identification detection (RFID) running on a battery is easy and affordable (~ 100 Euros). We provide a step-by-step description of how to build such an RFID triggered trap for small animals. We built and tested our selective traps in a colony of 300 captive bats, flying in a 40-m-diameter dome. Our device proved successful in trapping focal individuals using RFID identification while recording every single visit to the trap-feeder. Our guide not only provides information for building RFID-triggered traps, but also offers a general framework for building any device triggered by RFID and can thus help build tailored setups matching specific studies requirement. Home-made selective device using RFID detection have a great potential in opening-up exciting new possibilities for a wide range of studies on animals, ranging from trapping specific individuals, to automatically monitoring activities at the nest-box, or supplementing specific individuals in a population.


Open source Raspberry pi Carollia perspicillata Selective trap RFID 



We are very thankful to the Papiliorama, for allowing us to study their bat colony under such excellent research conditions. We are especially thankful to the technical team, for installing electricity and helping with installing the traps, Michel Ruegger, Tiago Marques, and Erland Mühlheim. We warmly thank Idonus, Paul Buckley, and Robert Accardi, from Priority 1 design. We also thank Lucie Masseboeuf for her help with the bats. Finally, we are thankful to the reviewers who provided helpful comments on a previous version of the manuscript.

Authors’ contribution

MM, AF, NF, and FH conceived the ideas.

MM and AF designed the methodology.

MM and AF build the set-up.

MM wrote the manuscript, with contributions from all authors.

All the authors accepted the final version of the manuscript.


This study was supported by grants from the Swiss National Science Foundation n ° PP00P3_139011 and n° PP00P3_165840 to FH.

Compliance with ethical standards

Ethical approval

This study was performed under the authorization 2015_43_FR, delivered by the veterinary office of the Canton Fribourg, Switzerland after examination by its ethical committee. All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the use of animals were followed.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

265_2019_2675_MOESM1_ESM.docx (24 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 23 kb)


  1. Adelman JS, Moyers SC, Farine DR, Hawley DM (2015) Feeder use predicts both acquisition and transmission of a contagious pathogen in a North American songbird. Proc Biol Sci 282 (1815):20151429CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Ambrož M (2017) Raspberry Pi as a low-cost data acquisition system for human powered vehicles. Measurement 100:7–18CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Aplin LM, Farine DR, Morand-Ferron J, Cole EF, Cockburn A, Sheldon BC, Sih A (2013) Individual personalities predict social behaviour in wild networks of great tits (Parus major). Ecol Lett 16:1365–1372CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Aplin LM, Farine DR, Morand-Ferron J, Cockburn A, Thornton A, Sheldon BC (2015) Experimentally induced innovations lead to persistent culture via conformity in wild birds. Nature 518:538–541CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bridge ES, Bonter DN (2011) A low-cost radio frequency identification device for ornithological research. J Field Ornithol 82:52–59CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Demeyrier V, Charmantier A, Lambrechts MM, Grégoire A (2017) Disentangling drivers of reproductive performance in urban great tits: a food supplementation experiment. J Exp Biol 220:4195–4203CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Farine DR, Spencer KA, Boogert NJ (2015) Early-life stress triggers juvenile zebra finches to switch social learning strategies. Curr Biol 25:2184–2188CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Fleming TH (1988) The short-tailed fruit bat: a study in plant-animal interactions. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  9. Hinde CA (2006) Negotiation over offspring care?—a positive response to partner-provisioning rate in great tits. Behav Ecol 17:6–12CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. König B, Lindholm AK, Lopes PC, Dobay A, Steinert S, Buschmann FJU, (2015) A system for automatic recording of social behavior in a free-living wild house mouse population. Animal Biotelemetry 3:39Google Scholar
  11. Lendvai ÁZ, Akçay Ç, Weiss T, Haussmann MF, Moore IT, Bonier F (2015) Low cost audiovisual playback and recording triggered by radio frequency identification using Raspberry Pi. PeerJ 3:e877CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Pasquali V, D’Alessandro G, Gualtieri R, and Leccese F (2017) A new data logger based on Raspberry-Pi for Arctic Notostraca locomotion investigations. Measurement 110:249-256CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Prinz ACB, Taank VK, Voegeli V, Walters EL (2016) A novel nest-monitoring camera system using a Raspberry Pi micro-computer. J Field Ornithol 87:427–435CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Psorakis I, Roberts SJ, Rezek L, Sheldon BC (2012) Inferring social network structure in ecological systems from spatio-temporal data streams. J R Soc Interface 9:3055–3066CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Whytock RC, Christie J (2017) Solo: an open source, customizable and inexpensive audio recorder for bioacoustic research. Methods Ecol Evol 8:308–312CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratory of Evolutionary Ecophysiology, Institute of BiologyUniversity of NeuchâtelNeuchâtelSwitzerland
  2. 2.Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife ResearchBerlinGermany
  3. 3.Department of Ecology and EvolutionUniversity of LausanneLausanneSwitzerland

Personalised recommendations