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Home / Features / Bird Buddy: a camera fitted bird feeder and life-affirming joy

Bird Buddy: a camera fitted bird feeder and life-affirming joy

How ten days with the Bird Buddy turned me into an armchair ornithologists

Bird Buddy review

I often wonder what kind of old person I’ll become. That’s because there are hobbies that are really only available to those of a certain age. They’re hobbies that demand attention, early mornings, and maybe 30 or so years of savings. They occupy retirement years, so need time to master. They’re largely docile pursuits, ones that turn the act of ‘sitting down’ into an art form. You want an activity that would have shocked you in your teens. Something so monotonous, it becomes meditative.

I’d say I’m generally a fan of train rides, so perhaps old me will delve deeper into that. I can always find an endangered traditional craft to preserve, but there’s another simple pleasure I’ve long found enthralling. Bird watching.

It’s not something I’ve ever done though, and there’s no reason why. It’s free, and the only gatekeepers are literal ones who own the private farmland. But two major reasons for that is time and patience, or a lack thereof. I want to be an armchair birdwatcher, and have the flock come to me. The Bird Buddy can help with that.

Bird Buddy is a ‘smart’ bird feeder. It’s little different to an actual feeder, aside from a high-resolution camera attached to the front of it. From the birds perspective, it does exactly the same job – it feeds them. But for us, it’s a tiny personal documentary filmed from our garden. Developed by bird enthusiasts, the camera snaps winged visitors, and beams the images to your phone a minute later. Its AI-powered tech can also recognise over 1000 bird species in real time, making the viewer amateur ornithologists.

I tested the Bird Buddy over ten days. Bird watching requires patience, so Google tells me. I decided to feed my elderly urges and take up birdwatching over ten days, on my own terms.

Day 1

I first set up the Bird Buddy in my garden, nestled in a patch of grass to keep it hidden. There are cats with varying degrees of anger management problems who roam the patch I call home. One particular cat I feel was created by a higher power simply to stare at me through my own window, while sitting in my own house. I, too, have a cat who guards my front porch, but really she has little to no power. She’s the King’s Guard of the cat world, displaying false authority but really is there to look fancy and be photographed. Either way, I’m no Bill Oddie, but I know that cats are not conducive to attracting birds. 

On day 1, I probably check the Bird Buddy app more times than I blink that day. A live feed from the bird box can be accessed through the app, and I watch it with the intensity of a World Cup final. I stare at my phone, waiting for a bird to arrive like I’m expecting feedback from a job interview. Disappointment is a part of life, but it’s the waiting that’ll get you.

Day 2

I wake up to joyous news. Rolling out of bed with groggy eyes, I reach for my phone and see a notification. It’s from Bird Buddy no less, and I’ve been visited by my first bird! I immediately understand the pursuit of bird watching. I feel like a Pokémon trainer who’s just captured their first Weedle.

When a bird is spotted, the app automatically determines its species. It works instinctively, thanks to some impressive built-in machine learning tech. In the Bird Buddy’s development stage, millions of images were needed to provide accurate results. The Bird Buddy experts gathered these photographs through a network of around 100 test cameras. Bird enthusiasts were also encouraged to submit their own photos. After some complicated neural network tweaking, and an embracing of the ‘hidden layer’ – a neural network term for something working, but not exactly knowing how – the Bird Buddy worked.

It’s able to recognise and name species before the notification reaches your phone. Sometimes, though, it needs a little human help. Should the Bird Buddy struggle to figure it out, which is rare, it’ll offer up a handful of suggestions. If your new friend matches an image, you tap it. If, like me, your bird knowledge is non-existent, you consult the Bird Buddy community. The app has a feature that works a bit like bird Tinder. A feed of unknown Bird Buddy residents appear on a feed, sourced from global uploads. If you recognise the species, swipe right. If not, swipe left.

Around 12 hours after consulting the community, I have my answer. Welcome to the family, Great Tit.

Day 3

I turn the live feed on to find my cat sniffing around the camera. That’s not a great bird welcome As the Bird Box requires an internet connection to work, it can’t be set in nearby woodland or too far from the source. I opt for a tall tree instead, where it dangles from a long branch that isn’t cat accessible.

Four legged creatures aside, it’s a slow day on birdwatch. But I begin to learn about yesterday’s visitor, the Great Tit. Bird Buddy not only snaps, stores and analyses birds, it teaches you about them too. Tapping on a visitor will bring up their fact profile. You can see a bird’s favourite foods, how social it is, where in the world you fan spot it, and all manner of interesting tidbits. It’s a fascinating feature, and one that really gives Bird Buddy a distinct edge over similar gadgets such as the NETVUE Birdfy.

Day 4

Bird Buddy review

The Bird Buddy has begun to consume me. I wake up from a dream where someone was stealing my Bird Buddy. I track him in real time, discovering his identity through the built in camera and confront him in my local town square. My memory fades after that, but I wasn’t being attacked by sharks or trying to fight in custard so I put that dream down as a win. As a disclaimer, I should point out this dream came after a ‘picky dinner’ largely consisting of various cheeses.

Anyway, today brings a new friend that I’m very happy to host. It’s a European robin no less, and a particularly handsome one at that. It’s putting on a real show for the camera, standing proud before plunging its face into a bed of seeds. I imagine it flying into my room to help with daily chores, but will likely just poo everywhere in reality. It’s a real beauty.

Day 5

Another day, another bird. This time it’s a Eurasian magpie, which is fine I guess. It’s hard to follow the European robin, a bird so photogenic it could be the face of a London Underground advertising campaign. I could wake to a phoenix who’s risen from the ashes just to chill in my garden for a bit, and I would still greet it with a vacant shrug before getting on with the rest of my day.

Day 6

Bird Buddy review

No birds, just a squirrel who seems to have encroached on my turf. Squirrels are not birds, and frankly this is not what I signed up for.

But then I begin to feel like a cowboy landlord. I’m snooping on who’s entering ‘my’ property, and tutting at the non-tenants. I’ll soon start describing the Bird Buddy as a ‘generously sized studio apartment nestled within sprawling countryside with private balcony access for £3400 per month’, when in reality it’s a box balanced in a tree.

Anyway, from here I react to every push alert from Bird Buddy like a breaking news event. Is there a magpie at my door, or has strike action been called? Has a left wing party won a shock victory in a Spanish election? Or is it just a squirrel?

Day 7

No birds. Only squirrel squatters.

Day 8

Little non-squirrel activity. I begin to think my squirrel fixation is a gateway drug to curtain twitching. I started this feature with a sense of wonder around ageing. That I will only be as old as my heart believes, but no. Teenagers will frighten me, and I won’t understand whatever the version of TikTok is in that decade. I’m with ‘it’ now, but then they’ll change what ‘it’ is. In time, what I’m with won’t be ‘it’, and what’s ‘it’ will seem weird and scary to me.

Day 9

No birds. Another squirrel. I believe in nothing.

Day 10

Bird Buddy review

Just when I start to give up hope, I strike gold. The day before, riddled with self-doubt, I moved the bird box to the highest point I can, while still being in the small garden behind my home. My Bird Buddy became the hottest ticket in town overnight. It’s like my struggling childhood football team has been bought out by a morally dubious billionaire. There’s a refreshing buzz in the town, an Italian wonderkid wants to sign with us, and I’m reaping the rewards without asking questions.

In ten days, I’ve gone from someone with a passing interest in birdwatching, to finding genuine excitement in it. Bird Buddy is a case of a simple idea working extremely well. There are countless benefits many could get from it. A new hobby yes, but a closer peek at the outside world. It’s an activity that would be great for homebound people, and its extra features is already building a community that I hope will only grow with time – much like my bird collection.

Profile image of Jack Needham Jack Needham


A writer of seven years and serial FIFA 23 loser, Jack is also Features Editor at Stuff. Jack has written extensively about the world of tech, business, science and online culture. He also covers gaming, but is much better at writing about it than actually playing. Jack keeps the site rolling with extensive features, analysis and occasional sarcasm.