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The bird feeders in my yard have always been an attraction for those of us watching from the couch, especially during the pandemic. Whether it's particularly crowded during a sunny afternoon or a squirrel is performing acrobatics to access seed, watching our feeders is a fun activity for everyone to partake in. The , however, has taken it to the next level.
Also: How I used a Raspberry Pi to automate birdwatching
The Bird Buddy is an adorable, yet uncomplicated, bird feeder, complete with a 720p-resolution camera module that sits in the perfect spot to record and photograph birds that visit for a snack. You'll get notifications on your smartphone alerting you of a new bird visitor from the Bird Buddy app, which you can check to see the recorded footage, photos, and information about the species that visited your feeder.
|Dimensions||9in x 6.3in x 6.9in|
|Field of view||120 degrees|
|Battery||4000mAh rechargeable lithium ion|
|Connectivity||2.4GHz Wi-fi, Bluetooth|
|Operating temperature||-5°F to 120°F|
|Material||BPA-free new and post-consumer recycled plastics|
|Seed capacity||3.8 cups|
After launching on Kickstarter in late 2020, a prime time for , Bird Buddy quickly gained backers to rise to become the single most funded project in the Gadgets category in the world; today.
I'm a sucker for a bird feeder of any kind. I've had up to six set up at the same time, with different kinds of wild bird seed, suet, or homemade blends; all ranging from fancy little bird-sized houses to cute thrift store teacups, and a hummingbird feeder, of course.
I'm not a hardcore birdwatcher who goes out hiking in search of rare bird species. I'm more of casual birder who just enjoys seeing all the feathered visitors that come for a snack at my bird feeders from the comfort of my own couch.
If you scroll through my phone's camera roll, you're sure to find an assortment of highly-zoomed-in, pixelated photos of birds gathered around my feeders -- with some squirrel shots sprinkled in for good measure.
The Bird Buddy not only does the job of taking the photos for me, it does it much better than me and my phone from 30 feet away, as the camera is up close, capturing HD video from mere inches away. And there's also the fact that the Bird Buddy is always watching, so it can save photos of birds that stopped by when I wasn't even home.
After moving to the East Coast and hearing all the different kinds of birds chirping, my six-year-old insisted on getting a book of birds so she could learn all about the different species we saw. Instead, I got the Merlin Bird ID mobile app, which recognizes different species of birds just by listening to the sound around you -- if you're a fan of birds, I can't recommend this app enough.
The Bird Buddy also IDs each bird that stops by for a meal. Aside from taking close-up photos and videos for you, it visually recognizes bird species and tells you about them, like their specific diet and favorite foods, information on lifestyle habits, geographic locations, audio recordings of their song, and more.
In an attempt to help birds, the Bird Buddy also tracks different species of birds to better understand migration patterns and bird populations through . This campaign takes a live look at the Bird Buddy feeders around the world and offers downloadable monthly data which could prove to be useful for conservationists and ornithologists looking for insights.
The first thing I noticed when taking everything out of the box is that there was no instruction manual with the device. I'm not sure if my unit was the problem, as I did get a guide of what foods to add to the feeder, just nothing explaining how to set up the unit.
Being that it comes mostly assembled, it wasn't hard to figure out what goes where. The box includes the house-shaped feeder, camera module, USB-C charging cable and adapter, and appropriate hardware to either mount the Bird Buddy on a pole or hang it with the included cord.
I didn't have a spare pole in my house, so hanging cord it was. As far as bird food, I did some research and decided to start with a mix of dry foods from my pantry, opting for an elaborate blend of dry oats, dried cranberries, raisins, and walnuts.
The camera module was fully charged within a few hours, and it secured to the bird feeder with a strong magnet and a small screw.
For placement, I chose a holly bush that sits right outside my home office window. This choice was mainly because I can see it from my desk, where I sit pretty much all day, and I've seen many birds exploring those bushes, so I knew it was already a bird hotspot.
The Bird Buddy uses Wi-Fi to connect to your account and send you the captured photos and videos, which means it needs to be within Wi-Fi range to do so. This is an obvious challenge for a device designed to be placed outside, but it's something to keep in mind before buying.
Once the Bird Buddy was up and running, I watched impatiently from my office window, waiting for the first visitor. An entire day passed with nothing, not a single visitor.
The second day the bird feeder was out, we had our first successful contact. A beautiful tufted titmouse approached warily, probably trying to determine if all the fancy food I put out was real or if there was a trap somewhere.
Whether he drew the short straw among his bird friends or came of his own accord, I was too excited to care. I gave it a few minutes and then checked my Bird Buddy app to see the surely-beautiful photos of my new best friend, but there was only an animation of a tiny bird bouncing a ball waiting, with the words "Nothing to see here" -- the camera didn't snap a single picture.
When the titmouse came back that same day, I thought, 'okay, this is it, it's going to catch it now'. But nope, the app didn't have any photos; as if it never happened. I thought maybe it didn't hang around long enough for the camera to wake up, but it was there for at least 20-30 seconds. The tufted titmouse came by at least four times on the second day the Bird Buddy was up, but the camera never caught a snapshot of it.
The app lets you check the camera feed in the settings, to ensure everything is set up and working properly. But this can diminish the battery life and it takes up to two minutes to load up. The Bird Buddy also can't take pictures of visitors while the feed is open.
The Bird Buddy didn't record or take pictures until the third day it was up, but once it got started, it rarely missed a visitor. The same tufted titmouse came by many times since the Bird Buddy was up, his name is now Walter; with sporadic visits from others, like a yellow-rumped warbler and, you guessed it, at least one squirrel.
Having the Bird Buddy has been an amazing experience for all of us at home; seeing the birds up close and personal like the Bird Buddy captures them has been educational and highly entertaining.
Each time a new visitor comes -- of the avian or rodent variety -- the Bird Buddy app sends you what it calls "postcards", which include a bit of information of the visitor, a video, and ten photos that you can pick and choose from to decide which to keep. After you've chosen your keepers, you can decide to share them publicly with the Bird Buddy community within the app, or save them to your private collection.
The battery lasted about a week of regular use, as did my fancy mix of dry foods. Taking down the Bird Buddy to recharge the camera module is a great opportunity to clean the feeder and refill the reservoir using the included bird seed cup. The Bird Buddy has a little door on the back of the seed reservoir that you can open to drop in the bird food and then close it when done.
The Bird Buddy smart bird feeder is priced at $199, which is high for a bird feeder, yet it has been seldom in stock since it became available following the Kickstarter campaign; it's just that popular. They come in blue and yellow and are available for pre-order right now, as the company works yet again to build back stock, with orders shipping in March and April 2023.
Though there are some drawbacks to the Bird Buddy, most of them can be solved with the different add-ons the company offers its customers, like a to add to the roof of the unit for $70, which helps reduce how often you have to recharge the camera module. There's also the option of getting a separate for $24, a for $14, and a priced at $22.
The youngsters in my home love seeing what comes through in the Bird Buddy app, and have never seen such closeup, high quality photos of the birds that visit our backyard, so it's blowing them away. They get excited about trying different types of bird seed to attract more different kinds of birds, as do I, and we're trying it in different places around the yard.
The app is definitely slow, as there's a lot of room for improvement there. It has some bugs with loading photos and videos every now and then, and it could be more user-friendly. Personally, I'd skip the postcard format of delivering the bird visitor information and go for a simpler, straightforward approach, as it would make it more intuitive for new users.
Battery life isn't the greatest, but it is a 4000 mAh rechargeable battery going out to face the avian world, so no more than a week or two of battery life is to be expected. This is something that could be improved in future models or by simply adding the solar panel roof.
After doing some hands-on testing for a couple of weeks, I admit I love my Bird Buddy. I don't know that I'd buy myself one at $199, as it is on the expensive side, but I would get it for bird-loving relatives. It does an outstanding job of taking beautiful photos of bird visitors, and I particularly love the AI-powered species recognition feature.
This could be a perfect match for anyone with a Ring subscription, as it fits seamlessly with your other Ring cameras. It's a bird feeder enclosure for a Ring Stick Up Cam but it also includes the solar panel to provide power. The setup, complete with the solar panel, retails for $200, the same preorder price as the Bird Buddy. It's also compatible with the Blink Outdoor camera and Wyze cams. The drawback is that you don't get the benefits of the Bird Buddy app, which automatically saves photos and videos and features species recognition.
This Netvue Birdfy smart bird feeder is a different option at about the same price range as the Bird Buddy; the difference is that it's ready to order.
The BirdDock is a 2-in-1 smart feeder with the ability to hold seeds for your backyard bird visitors as well as nectar for hummingbirds. Though it doesn't come with a solar panel, like the other alternatives above, the company behind BirdDock claims the reachargeable battery can last up to 20 days on a single charge.