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Bird Destroys Its Own Research Camera

A curious Bird Destroys its own research camera, a very expensive one; perhaps he was a little more than just camera shy?

Nadav Ossendryver Avatar

A curious bird destroys its own research camera, a very expensive one; perhaps he was a little more than just camera shy?

32-year-old Ph.D. candidate Kyle-Mark Middleton had a very unpleasant surprise one morning. While performing a routine check on a camera trap set up in front of an active ground hornbill nest. A mysteriously broken camera was discovered.

Ground hornbills are high up on the endangered species list. The main culprit for their decline is the significant loss of habitat. The APNR Ground-Hornbill Project has played a major role in the conservation of these beautiful birds. Part of the conservation efforts involves installing artificial nests to facilitate breeding in areas where natural nests no longer occur. Camera traps are then used to track the success of the birds’ breeding and to aid research.

Hornbill research

Southern ground hornbills are monogamous. They are thought to reach maturity around the age of eight. They shockingly average only one chick every six years. That is why every chick is vital for the survival of the species.

“During a routine nest check for the project. The team noticed that the birds were going to breed after assessing the nest lining. We installed a camera trap to investigate which group of birds it was. Subsequently hoping to catch any other interesting behavior that might occur. Camouflaged protective boxes house the cameras. However, we suspect that this bird saw its reflection in the small lens of the camera, which sparked an interest.”


These camera traps are in no way invasive or an inconvenience to the birds. Their main purpose is to record data and to give researchers an opportunity to observe them in the most natural way possible.

“This camera was brand new, and the footage captured was from the first day of being up. Undeniably the footage is quite entertaining to watch. However, because we are conducting research and conservation with a limited budget. We were disappointed that the camera was destroyed and could no longer be used. Nonetheless, we continue using camera traps, which have proven invaluable for species research and conservation when not destroyed.”

Moments before the destruction

Camera shy?

“The end result was one of great success, as the group went on to breed successfully. We can assure you that no birds were in any way harmed in the process”

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