Bird Buddy – smart feeder review

I finally received my “smart bird feeder” from a Kickstarted campaign I backed in… January of 2021 🙂 I know projects like that take time to materialize, and I’m happy to see it lead to successful production and I now have a unit in my hands.

If you know anything about me, you know how much I love birds 🐦

 

Table of contents

  1. Overview
  2. What’s in the box
  3. Review and observations
  4. Photos of BirdBuddy
  5. Photos captured by BirdBuddy

 

Overview

The initial Kickstarter campaign took place at the very start of 2021. What caught my attention was the AI-backed recognition of bird species, and seemingly “plug and play” nature of the feeder (no need to manually charge the camera every day, and the photos being delivered straight to my phone).

I already put number of feeders around the house, and this felt like a natural addition. And I thought of putting it outside of one of the aviaries (check out my articles detailing the building of balcony aviary and porch aviary) so our parrots get to watch wild birds on sunny days 😉

Since successful conclusion of Kickstarter campaign and the finalization of production, the product is now available for purchase from their official website:

 

What’s in the box?

Product is packed in a very sturdy and high quality box:

 

Everything arrived in perfect shape, and there isn’t really much needed in terms of assembly (outside of attaching the swiveling base if you want to put it on a wall mount):

And a detailed look at the accessories in the set:

Notice that there’s a sturdy string provided in the box. You can lace is under the roof of the feeder and simply hang on a branch, or a hook attached to a wall of a building.

However, I wanted to attach it in a more permanent way, which brings us to…

 

Wall mount

I decided to order a dedicated wall mount, for easy installation. It came in its own box, and while a very simple design, it appears to be very functional. The feeder is simply inserted into the “tube mount”, and no screws are needed to secure it, which makes for quick and easy access to refill or clean. Mount comes with a set of screws to fasten it to the desired surface.

 

 

And this is the spot I decided to place it at:


(photo taken at night)

Which is right outside our balcony aviary

 

Review and observations

I’ll keep this part concise – the setup was simple and didn’t pose any troubles (just make sure to first fully charge the unit), and the feeder meets most of the expectations I expressed at the beginning of the article. I was hoping for it to be “maintenance free” just as all other feeders, outside of simply refilling them with seeds, but this is where I encountered few problems.

Pros:

  • Easy to set-up, lightweight, good quality materials, looks nice,
  • You receive photos of the visitors automatically, with information on the species, statistics on number of spottings and more – this is the magical part of the product, very cool to get such notification on a phone 😉
  • You can share photos with a community, as well as help refine the AI algorithm by correcting mis-classified birds (*this didn’t seem to always work for me, see below)

Cons:

  • Battery efficiency (capacity vs consumption) combined with the effectiveness of solar panel on the top of feeder may not be sufficient to keep it running for long
    • I live in Seattle, and we do have reputation for most of the year being dark and rainy. Unfortunately, right now (November) it appears we already don’t get enough sun light to keep the battery charged on ongoing basis, without requiring additional charging from the wall.
    • Could doubling the area of solar panel have helped? I’m surprised only 1 slope of the roof has the solar cells.
  • The angle of the camera
    • As you can see on sample photos I provided below, the edges of the roof get captured in the photos, which seems a bit… jarring.
  • AI recognition of bird species
    • I’m getting mis-recognized species very often, from a small delta stemming from the quality of image (e.g. Mountain Chickadee vs Chestnut-Backed Chickadee) to jarring misclassification (Yellow-sided Green Cheek Conure vs… Hummingbird! 😉).
  • Buggy mobile app
    • While I could say a lot of good words about the overall design and visuals in the mobile app, it does have number of bugs. Examples I’m hitting most commonly:
      • Errors when I attempt to fix mis-classified bird – operation to assign new type fails repeatedly, and such images get stuck in “Mystery visitor” category
      • Issues with search: you need to be typing the full name of the bird as it appears in their database, and searching by provided words doesn’t work (will return expected result: “Mountain Chickadee”, won’t return any results: “chickadee mountain”)
  • For a “smart” device, I feel like the full potential hasn’t been realized yet – there’s just more that could be done, to appeal to data-driven minds! Examples:
    • Notifications for when seed supply is are running low and should be refilled,
    • Timeline showing activity – top-level view to see when birds visit the most, drill-down per recognized species, etc,
    • Hard-wire kit with further customizability – I complained about the lacking battery/solar panel efficiency, so maybe we could just plug the feeder in? This would open the door to additional opportunities – additional lighting when it gets dark, maybe even low-power heater that could be turned on during winter months?

 

All things considered, I’m fairly happy with the purchase, but… I can’t shake off the feeling that there really wasn’t that much missing to do more about it, to increase usability/reliability greatly. Bit more stabilization for the software, better power delivery from solar panel to accommodate broader variety of environmental conditions, and it would be great.

 

Photos of Bird Buddy

No better way to showcase the product called “Bird Buddy” than with, ekhm, a buddy of mine – Bella! 💖 She’s a great product tester, and – being very opinionated 😉 – can quickly pinpoint any flaws!

She seemed to approve of the feeder, so I went ahead and hung it for wild birds 🐦🕊️🦜

 

Photos captured by Bird Buddy

Of course, Bella was also the first model that I wanted to get some photos of!

 

And here’s couple visitors that have since stopped by the feeder:

 

I’ll update the article as more birdies come for a quick refreshments 🐦😉

 

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