Choosing the right smart bird feeder can be overwhelming - there are a lot of models on the market as everyone jumps onto the latest technology bandwagon.
We dug into the nitty gritty to answer all your questions about smart bird feeders, so you can get up close and personal with your back yard birds like never before.
In fact, the picture at the top of this article was taken by a Bird Buddy smart bird feeder camera. You can't get much closer than that!
What is a smart bird feeder?
A smart bird feeder is bird feeder with a motion-activated camera built right in.
Most come with 1080p, high-definition videos, along with features like night vision and a microphone that picks up bird sounds. Some also have a speaker, which you can use to chase squirrels away.
Some smart bird feeders can automatically capture both photos and videos.
What makes a smart bird feeder smart?
Smart bird feeders sync the camera with an app downloaded to your phone so you can get notifications when a bird arrives.
Many of the apps will (try to) use AI (artificial intelligence) to identify the type of bird for you, but accuracy is hit and miss for most of them.
The image here is a screen shot from a typical bird feeder app.
You might like: Top 5 squirrel proof bird feeders
What kinds of birds will the smart bird feeder attract?
First of all, it will only attract birds that come to bird feeders, despite advertising images of kingfishers of a smart feeder. (Kingfishers eat fish, not birdseed.)
Which feeder birds are attracted depends mainly on where you are, what kind of food you offer, and whether the perch and feeding ports can accommodate birds that need a lot of room, like doves and cardinals.
How does a smart bird feeder work?
A motion sensor triggers the camera to take pictures, and the camera then uses a connected app to identify the bird and send a notification to your phone.
Do bird feeders with a camera scare birds away?
Birds are sometimes wary of new objects in their environment, even non-camera bird feeders. It can often take a few days or weeks until they get used to a new feeder of any kind. Eventually they realize realize the feeder is not dangerous and will start using it.
Where do you put a smart bird feeder?
Mount your smart bird feeder on a solid post or tree, in a well lit area. Hanging the feeder from a tree or hook allows the unit to move, which will create a motion blur in your images. You'll also need to choose a spot that receives a good WiFi signal, or boost your signal strength with a WiFi repeater.
What is the best smart bird feeder?
It really depends on what features you want in a smart bird feeder. Here's our take on the 7 best options.
How much does a smart bird feeder cost?
This technology is fairly new, so the good ones cost between $150 - $300 USD. Prices should come down as the technology matures.
Are there restrictions on how the downloaded images can be used or distributed?
No. Like images you make with any other camera, the copyright belongs to you.
Is there a bird feeder camera you can watch on your phone?
Yes, there are several. Here's our take on the 7 best options.
Do smart bird feeders with a camera require a subscription?
Some do and some don't. If a subscription is required, the charge is usually nominal - around $5 USD per month.
Are smart bird feeders hard wired or wireless?
Most are wireless and battery powered. Some can use a small solar panel to keep the batteries charged.
Do I need a WiFi connection to use a smart bird feeder?
Yes, you will need need a 2.4G connection, not a 5G connection. (2.4G is said to reach outdoors more effectively.)
Smart bird feeders can pick only up a WiFi signal from about 30 feet (10 meters), so choose a spot with a strong signal or consider adding a repeater to enhance the signal.
What if I only have 5G WiFi?
Your wireless router may be a dual band model that also offers 2.4 G connectivity; you may be able to switch it from 5G to 2.4G or you may be able to use an affordable 5G to 2.4G adapter.
Can a smart bird feeder camera transmit video to my TV?
Are smart bird feeders squirrel-resistant?
Smart bird feeders are made of very strong, durable plastic but are not at all squirrel resistant. You'll have to take active measures for squirrel-proofing!
Is the Bird Buddy smart bird feeder a real thing?
Yes, Bird Buddy is a brand of smart bird feeder with a camera module that photographs and identifies any birds (or other critters) that come to the feeder. Check it out here.
Does the Bird Buddy smart bird feeder take videos?
Yes, in 720P format.
What does IP65 mean?
The IP code or Ingress Protection code indicates how well a device is protected against water and dust. IP65 means "Protected against water jets from any angle." This means your smart bird feeder should remain watertight in any kind of weather.
Can I share the live views from my smart bird feeder?
Most apps allow you to give access to multiple viewers.
Can you live stream from a smart bird feeder?
It depends on the model. Some can live stream, while others can't.
Are there alternatives to expensive smart bird feeders?
There are bird feeders with camera that are quite "cheep", but cheap is the operative word. Don't expect long life or good quality from a smart bird feeder under $100. The low-priced bird feeders with camera also don't use an app to identify birds or send notifications to your phone.
Can I DIY a smart bird feeder?
You can build a bird feeder with a camera using a GoPro, doorbell or other security camera or you can use a motion activated trail cam. These won't give you the "smart" feature of bird identification though, unless you can figure out how to pair with one of the online apps.
However, trail cams usually don't transmit pictures; doorbell cameras don't give the best quality video and GoPro is quite expensive.
For those who love to tinker, you can build your own bird feeder camera from parts. There's a parts list and instructions here, and a video explaining what to do below here.
(Note that these links are for building the camera, not a feeder with a camera.)
Got more questions?
If we've missed an important question, drop us a line in the comments and we'll try to get answers for you!
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Image credit: Bird Buddy