The hardest thing about birdwatching, second only to identifying the birds, is getting a clear picture of them. Birds spook easily and unless you’re willing to set up a tripod and wait patiently, you end up getting a blurry photo of them flying away. Yes, in the last few years, I’ve been able to get a handful of great images, but for each one, there are a dozen or so that sucked.
Birdbuddy is a company out of Kalamazoo, Mich., that saw an opportunity to bring the hobby of bird watching into the 21st century. By combining a bird feeder with a wireless camera and an AI-based database of birds, the Bird Buddy Smart Bird Feeder allows you to monitor and save your avian activity from afar. Sure, you still get a few blurry pictures (birds are wicked fast) but more often than not, you get great images and high-quality video.
What’s more, as the #mybirdbuddy community grows, so does the information database. Each time a bird lands and is captured as a “postcard,” it feeds Birdbuddy’s database, which helps create one of the largest and most informative databases of birds on the planet.
In short: The Bird Buddy is a bird feeder outfitted with a wireless camera that makes capturing your feathered friends easier than ever. It utilizes an AI database that helps identify the birds that land at it, which grows every time you share your findings with the Bird Buddy community.
- Great for birdwatchers
- The image and video quality are awesome
- The supporting app keeps you engaged
- Bird Buddy TV lets you see birds from all over the world, up close and personal
- It’s a $200 bird feeder
Bird Buddy Review
What’s in the Box
- Bird feeder
- 720p HD / 5-megapixel wireless camera
- USB-C charging cable
- Pole mount and screws
- Seed scoop
- Rope hanger
Editor’s note: Shortly after this writing, Birdbuddy had two new products successfully funded on Kickstarter: a Smart Hummingbird Feeder and Smart Bird Bath. Both will use the same AI technology and wireless camera that the Bird Buddy Smart Bird Feeder uses.
Catching a hummingbird on camera is like trying to get a real picture of Bigfoot, so there’s no surprise that this Kickstarter campaign made almost $3 million in pledges (they were only looking for $100,000). Both products would make a cool addition for anyone who’s gung-ho about birds.
Design and Features
Aside from the pill-shaped slot that houses the camera, the Bird Buddy looks like any other bird feeder on the market today. The feeder comes fully assembled and is made from durable plastic. The only thing you need to do is screw on the included pole mount or attach the included rope hanger, and charge the camera.
The feeder is designed with company in mind. From the large storage tank that holds up to 4 cups of bird seed, to the tub floor where the seed flows down into, two birds (or one squirrel) can easily sit, eat, and enjoy themselves. It’s this design that allows the camera to catch those glamour shots — and videos — of your feathered friends.
But the magic doesn’t stop there, as the Bird Buddy pairs with an AI database of birds in your area. So, you get an alert on your phone when a bird lands on the feeder, which not only takes pictures and videos, but also identifies the bird for you. On the off chance the feeder doesn’t get a great shot of your visitor (which is rare), you do have the option to try and identify the bird (or squirrel) yourself.
All in all, the Bird Buddy is well thought out in all directions. Starting with the functional packaging that aids in the setup, to the feeder itself, to the massive online community of other folks sharing their birds, the experience is immersive and very rewarding.
Bird Buddy: First Impressions
My first impression of the Bird Buddy, in a word, was “cute.” From the packaging to the product to the included sheet of stickers, Birdbuddy uses cartoon characters and lively colors to introduce you to the product and help you get it set up. This same approach extends to the app, which takes it one step further and uses cute language to support the product and the brand.
As far as the actual birdhouse goes, it’s well made — and so is the camera. It’s obvious that both were designed to stand up to a slew of storms.
When it came to setting the Bird Buddy up, the process was as easy as charging the camera and downloading the app. The most difficult part is figuring out where to put the unit so that you’ll get the best results.
I ended up putting it in the southeast corner of my yard. I would like to tell you that I did all sorts of calculations and triangulations, but that’s where the birds start singing in the morning, so it seemed like a natural fit.
Depending on your setup, and the time of year, consider getting the solar roof version of the Bird Buddy. The battery on the camera lasts a couple of weeks, but if you want to make sure you don’t miss a visitor, solar is the way to go.
The trade-off to having the solar panel roof is that birds are prone to taking a dump on the panels. That said, and considering that you have to refill the feeder every couple of weeks, I’ll leave the decision up to you.
The solar roof is also offered as an add-on, so you can always test the waters with the standard unit and upgrade later.
In the Field
The version of the Bird Buddy I received came with the standard hanging cord and pole mount. Birdbuddy does offer a separate wall mount that would suffice for the majority of us, and you could mount it to any bird feeder pole sold anywhere around you.
I ended up heading down to the hardware store and building a mount out of black iron pipe ($20). It required me to remove the threading from inside the feeder mount but is working out famously otherwise.
My recommendation would be to have fun with it. The only thing I would tell you is to mount it so that it’s visible from all directions. Birds are less likely to hit up a feeder mounted directly to your house or a shed. Birds are skittish by nature and want a quick way in and out of a feeder.
The Community & Bird Buddy TV
On the Bird Buddy app is a TV icon in the bottom navigation menu. This allows you to watch videos of birds from all over the world enjoying seed in a Bird Buddy feeder. It’s mind-blowing how big the community is. As of this writing, I was watching birds from England, as well as South Dakota and Vermont. And it’s up to you if you want to share, so don’t feel pressured into it. However, it will add to the overall experience.
When a bird lands, you get a notification that you have a new visitor. Each instance is called a postcard, and each postcard comes with a video and a collection of images through which you can sort, choosing what to keep or discard. After you save your video and images, you are given the option to share your findings with the community, or just your private collection.
The images you choose and the video save to your personal collection by default.
The Waiting Game
Speaking from experience, birdwatching is easiest in winter because our little flying friends are desperate for food. This desperation brings them, in droves, to the feeders in your yard.
In spring and summer, that’s not the case. You practically need to beg a bird to come to a feeder. And I get it, choosing between a fresh bug or some dry seed is like choosing between filet mignon and a napkin.
That said, it took 3 weeks for a bird to show up at my Bird Buddy after I put it up. But the fact that it was a female northern cardinal made it worth it. Since then, I’ve received multiple postcards a day. It’s a mix of the northern cardinal, a pair of house finches, and a brazen squirrel.
If you want to speed up the process, you could always hang some suet near the feeder, or put out some fruit. It all depends on where you live and what kind of birds you regularly encounter.
I have a lot of birds of prey in the area this time of year, so I need to be selective as to what I put out. But the suet has been effective in enticing the right birds to the Bird Buddy.
Bird Buddy Review: A Good Buy?
Everything is about timing and the Bird Buddy owes a lot of its success to technology. If the Bird Buddy came out 10 years ago, it would have been cumbersome and people would have eventually gotten bored of it.
As it stands, the Bird Buddy isn’t just a bird feeder with a wireless camera. There’s the support of a very well-thought-out app as well as an AI database. These things help keep you entertained when you’re waiting for your feathered friends to arrive.
Overall, the Bird Buddy is a great bird feeder — and time sucker — for birdwatchers of all ages and levels. Sure, I miss not having to look up the birds that come to my feeder, but the trade-off here is the great images and videos. Bird Buddy TV is also a great feature; seeing birds from other parts of the country and the world, up close and personal, is interesting and engaging.
That said, if you’re thinking that buying the Bird Buddy will attract birds to your yard, you could buy any bird feeder and give it a shot. You need to have birds in your area and be willing to wait it out for them to recognize and accept the Bird Buddy. But, beware: Once they fall in love with it, you’re going to want to make sure you keep it full of seed.
There are worse addictions.