A miniature lightweight radio telemetric device is described which is shown to be suitable for recording neuronal activity in freely behaving animals. Its size (12 × 5 × 8 mm) and weight (1.0-1.1 g with batteries, 0.4-0.5 g without) make the device particularly suitable for recording neuronal units in small animals such as mice or zebra finches. The device combines a high impedance preamplifier, RC-filters and an FM-transmitter. Using the device we recorded action potentials in field L of freely behaving zebra finches (12-17 g) through chronically implanted tungsten electrodes. In freely behaving birds we observed frequency dependent responses of field L units to auditory stimuli for periods of up to 7 days. We investigated the effect of the device on singing and locomotor activity of the zebra finches. Singing and locomotion were significantly affected on the first day after surgery. Both anesthesia and the presence of the transmitter contributed to the observed effect. After 1 day of recovery, singing activity returned to 99.6% and perch-hopping activity to 55.3% of the baseline levels. It is concluded that the device is well suited for recording spike trains from small animals while they behave freely and naturalistically. © 2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.