Bird enthusiasts, this one is for you! Smart bird feeders are on the market, and they make feeding and spotting familiar favorites and unique visitors educational and fun. Plus, they can make us feel closer to our fine and feathery friends by capturing images of them via an integrated camera. Flipping through bird books with a blurry recollection of a bird’s beak shape and feather pattern is a thing of the past with smart bird feeders.
Even if you are not an ornithology expert, there is great appeal to be found in smart bird feeders. They are an easy way to attract birds of all kinds and help us connect with local species. It can seem as if birds accompany us everywhere at all times. Their sounds are the soundtracks to our days: chirps and caws can be wake-up calls, while hoos lull us to sleep or keep us awake at night. Why should we not learn more about these creatures that accompany us throughout our lives?
A Surprisingly Recent Invention
Though humans have been feeding birds for as long as the two species have coexisted, the first modern bird-feeding device was not conceptualized until relatively recently. In 1825, British naturalist and amateur ornithologist John Freeman Milward Dovaston invented the ornithotrophe, the first iteration of a hanging bird feeder.
The creation of Dovaston’s ornithotrophe coincided with naturalist movements in the UK and the US. Because naturalists advocated for the preservation of wildlife, bird watching and bird studying became more prevalent. As a result, bird feed and feeders rose in popularity. The latter entered several different versions throughout the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, from bird tables to tubular silos.
The first commercial bird feeder was a hummingbird feeder and it was designed by Laurence J. Webster between 1929 and 1935. His wife May enjoyed feeding Ruby-throated hummingbirds out of little bottles. However, she found it tedious to keep them stocked with liquid. Laurence used his engineering background to draft plans for a hummingbird feeding device made out of handblown glass. In 1947, a photo of the feeder was published in National Geographic. After that, demand for hummingbird feeders soared. The first commercial bird feeder, the Webster feeder, was put on the market in 1950. Backyards would never be the same.
Smart Bird Feeders, A Welcomed Update
Smart bird feeders share the same foundational design and purpose as analog bird feeders: they feed birds, thus bringing us closer to them. However, birds are easily startled, making it difficult for even the most enthusiastic bird lovers to identify them. But by taking high-resolution photos and utilizing AI to identify bird species in an instant, smart bird feeders bring birds closer to us.
Here are some key players in the smart bird feeder game.
Bird Buddy Smart Bird Feeder
Bird Buddy is a Wi-Fi-enabled, roofed bird feeder that features an AI-powered camera. The camera is 5MP with WDR and 720p video quality. The AI-powered camera senses any visitors (including the odd squirrel) and captures an image instantly. The impressive AI technology recognizes over 1,000 bird species with a quick scan. It notifies users on their mobile devices through the dedicated app linked to the Bird Buddy via users’ home Wi-Fi networks and offers a plethora of bird fun facts. The mobile device can even control the camera. When the photo is captured, it is automatically sent to the mobile device and stored on the app. Each new species is documented, and users can ‘unlock’ new species when they visit their feeder.
The Bird Buddy Smart Bird Feeder can be outfitted with several add-ons to enhance the bird feeding experience, including a detachable solar panel, a wall mount, and a 3-in-1 nutrition set composed of a fountain, fruit stake, and jelly tray. Coming soon to the Bird Buddy is a microphone that will be able to recognize bird species through song.
Bird Dock Hummingbird Feeder with Camera and App
Hummingbird bird feeders have made the smart transition as well. The Bird Dock Hummingbird Feeder can hold nectar as well as seeds, all while capturing those fast-flying birds in an instant.
Like the Bird Buddy, the Bird Dock Hummingbird Feeder instantly detects a bird’s presence and alerts users via a dedicated mobile app. Similarly, it has AI capability that can analyze a bird’s face to inform the user of the bird species. The camera has 1080 HD vision and can operate over a 165-degree angle day or night, so users can never miss a bird visit.
The Bird Dock Hummingbird Feeder is designed with hummingbirds in mind, with a flat surface featuring five flower-shaped feeding ports. Each port has a 0.16-inch hole that has enough room for the hummingbird to sip and guards against bees from getting at it. Sorry fellow pollinators.
Lumary Solar-Powered Smart Bird Feeder
The newest smart bird feeder is the Lumary Smart Bird Feeder, powered by solar energy. Like the previous two smart bird feeders, it captures bird photos instantly and notifies users via a mobile app. It also uses AI to determine bird species. What distinguishes it from the others is its massive database of bird species. Its AI technology can accurately identify over 10,000 species of birds. Its 1080 P full HD color camera only makes identifying these species easier.
Lumary Smart Bird Feeder is also solar-powered, so no add-ons are necessary. Attached to a 9.8-meter power cable, the Lumary Smart Bird Feeder’s panel can easily attach to the rooftop to catch more rays so the bird watching never ends. It also has impressive Wi-Fi capability with a 5dBi antenna, so connecting with backyard companions can be done from near and far.
Feeding Birds Responsibly with Smart Bird Feeders
According to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, over 59 million Americans participate in bird feeding. While feeding winged friends has been an American pastime for well over a century, purchases of backyard birding products like birdhouse kits, bird seed, and feeders increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the National Audubon Society.
The creation of smart bird feeders proves that birding and bird-feeding continue a popular hobby for many people. However, there are concerns that should be taken into account before filling shopping carts with these smart feeders.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service explains that while bird feeders are a fun pastime and hobby, they can raise ethical questions related to wildlife preservation and animal behavior. They outline the three biggest concerns of bird feeders are:
- Disease: drawing birds to close quarters at a bird feeder increases the spread of bacteria like salmonella and E. coli among them and humans.
- Predation: speed spillage from bird feeders can draw predators like cats, hawks, raccoons and even bears.
- Collision: some birds end up colliding with glass windows or other reflective surfaces near bird feeders.
Bird feeding and purchasing a tricked-out smart bird feeder do not have to be ethical quandaries if proper measures are taken to ensure the safety of our feathered friends and other animals. The US Fish and Wildlife Service recommends actions like:
- Cleaning bird feeders every couple of weeks to reduce the risk of spreading disease. Cleaning methods are dependent upon manufacturer specifications and the type of bird feeder. For example, hummingbird feeders should be cleaned more often (every three to five days).
- Sweeping up seed debris around bird feeders to minimize the risk of unintended visitors.
- Placing feeders within three feet of reflective surfaces or covering these surfaces to reduce bird collisions.
Smart bird feeders are a fun way to connect with nature and become educated on local bird species through technology. But, as with any new investment, there should be an examination of the risks as well as the rewards. Doing so ensures the safety of us as well as the birds we know and love.