As the weather warms and animals continue to become more active, why not consider observing their behavior? You can even do this activity with any pets or animals you have inside. Or, consider watching a video of animals!

An ethogram is a tool zookeepers and other scientists use to measure behavior in animals.

An example ethogram listing possible behaviors observed.

There are lots of examples of ethograms available, but essentially it is just a table or catalog of the different behaviors typically seen or observed for a given animal. Using an ethogram is a method for how scientists can learn more about typical animal behaviors for a variety of species.

You can create your own ethogram and study animals in your neighborhood, real or virtually!

How to get started:

  1. Prepare your ethogram either electronically (consider downloading Lincoln Park Zoo’s free Observe to Learn App or creating a simple ethogram on a piece of paper or notebook). You will want to record some basic information like who is observing (you!), the date, time, weather, location, and the animal you are observing.
  2. For either the electronic or paper version, you will need to make a list of the specific behaviors you are planning to observe in your study animal. For example: running, eating, grooming, standing still, sleeping, etc.
  3. You will also need to establish your data observation/recording times. Depending on the animal, you will likely want to keep these fairly short, possibly 30-second intervals. You can make a list of the times (i.e. 1:00; 1:30, 2:00… etc.) up to however many minutes you will observe. You can then use a watch, or a timer on a phone to help you know when to record your observations. The app will make a sound or vibrate to let you know when to make an observation.
  4. When the time interval is up, record the behavior you see (mark an x on your paper or select the behavior in the app).
  5. Feel free to record any additional notes, especially if you see anything surprising!
  6. For fun, you can compare your ethogram with someone else’s, to see how similar or different your observations were. You can do this with a video recording of an animal (consider any of our Minnesota Zoo animal stories). Not only is this a fun exercise, but it also demonstrates how scientists will train others to do animal observations by discussing any differences in their recordings so future recordings are more accurate between multiple observers.

Have fun making observations and recording behavior for different types of animals!

The Minnesota Zoo would love to see examples of how you used this activity at home! Please share pictures or comments via email at [email protected], and take less than 5 minutes of time to provide us feedback by completing this short survey.