Studying Animal Behavior at Home

April 16, 2020

A wild squirrel

From eastern gray squirrels that forage around in parks and take shelter in trees to coyotes that travel throughout the city along corridors, urban wildlife is all around us in Chicago—whether we see them or not! Much like how scientists at Lincoln Park Zoo study the behavior of animals in our care, you can study the behavior of the wildlife around you. The study of animal behavior, called ethology, allows scientists to use ethograms to establish a baseline of behavior, so anything changes can be addressed. This helps the zoo care for our animals and help them thrive.

This is your opportunity to be a scientist and study the behavior of wildlife from your window or pets in your own home!

What You’ll Need

Steps

  1. Fill out your ethogram and observation data sheet with your name, observation number, and animal species you are studying.
  2. Set a timer on your phone or a stopwatch for five minutes.
  3. Every 15 seconds, look at the animal, and record what the animal is doing by writing an X under the behavior in the correct time slot.
  4. At the end of five minutes, total each behavior column. All the observations added together should be 20. Complete as many times as you want with the same individual animal.

Optional

  1. Fill out the Compile your Data sheet with the number of times each behavior was observed under the correct observation.
  2. Create a time budget based on the average percentages from the Compile your Data Sheet. Note that each tick mark increases by increments of 6.25%. Color in each ‘slice’ or behavior—this will help to visualize how the animal spent its time.

Don’t forget to share your findings and what you learned with others! Interested in discovering more about Chicago’s wildlife? Check out Chicago Wildlife Watch, and help the zoo’s scientists identify the animals that call Chicago home.