Review: Bird Buddy
I've always been an animal person more than a people person, and I have a particular fondness for birds">birds. A few years ago, I found an embarrassing childhood diary entry recounting the time I whistled at the birds on the tree outside my bedroom window. They whistled! Back! I felt like Snow White. Now I have my two cats and all the birds who visit my balcony bird feeder every day.
Since WIRED declared Bird Buddy to be one of the Best of CES in 2022, I've thought about little else. While waiting for the feeder to be shipped, I tested another smart feeder, the Netvue Birdfy, which I also loved. While the two are very similar, Bird Buddy has one important feature: It doesn't just tell you what species are visiting, it teaches you about the birds you're spotting.
This cute feeder comes in bright blue or yellow, with a roof covering the trough of food. It looks adorable wherever you place it--and depending on the one you get, you can mount it to the wall or on a pole or hang it from a branch--but its real draw, of course, is that it's equipped with a camera for the perfect view of hungry birbs. =
When connected to the app, you'll be notified when new visitors arrive, and you can cycle through photos and videos, saving whatever ones you like best. The output quality is surprisingly good, despite how quickly some of these birds drop in and take off. You can opt to view the live feed whenever the desire hits, but that disables automatic photos and videos. It takes about two minutes for the app to open the live view, which is slightly inconvenient, but at least the Bird Buddy didn't take pictures of me when I went out to refill the seed.
The main purpose of the Bird Buddy is to spot and identify bird species using its artificial intelligence. It does this better than the Birdfy but still has its mix-ups. I get what feels like hundreds of doves at my feeders a day--in reality, it's probably 10 to 20 of the same ones--and no matter how many times in a row it correctly identifies them as mourning doves, every so many it says they're white-winged or Eurasian-collared doves. At least these misidentifications came closer than Birdfy's (they're all in the dove family!), but it can still be frustrating. I've had a few instances of multiple species together in photos, and so far it has identified only one among the flock.
One thing I like is that the app includes a list of birds the subject might also be, so you can easily figure out which one is right. If that doesn't help, you can submit it for the experts to decipher. (I recently submitted some mystery visitors but have yet to hear back.)
Bird Buddy makes birding from home a joy. Not only can I figure out exactly what species is frolicking away on my balcony, but I can learn about them right there in the app. I learned that those mourning doves often snack on snails (yuck) and hoard their food (same); dark-eyed juncos aren't very friendly (sad); and house finches have excellent memories (I hope they love me).
You can even listen to their songs, which is especially helpful since the videos don't include sound--video is a new feature that was enabled only toward the end of my testing, and I very much appreciate that addition. I could see it being a great resource for kids but also people like me who are desperate to learn about the animals they love without going out on an 8 am birding hike with strangers.
I like that Bird Buddy's app organizes photos and videos by species, which makes it nice to look back at later. It also makes a game of collecting birds like Pokemon cards. The way new events are presented to you, however, gets old quickly. Your feed shows that a new "postcard" is waiting for you. Clicking the postcard reveals a cute animation before telling you what species of bird was there and allowing you to cycle through the gallery that includes several photos and video.
When there was more than one postcard, which is typically the case, having to go through the animation every single time became rather annoying. I wish I could set it to do that only for new species that show up and otherwise just let me know there are new images for the ones already found. I'd be a whole lot happier if it said something like "more pigeons were at your feeder" instead of having to open six postcards each of multiple photos of the same ones.
Though I didn't try it, I suggest buying the Bird Buddy bundled with the solar roof. Without it, I was charging the camera once a week or so. Taking it out to charge isn't a big deal, since it just clicks back in magnetically, but it's a little annoying and worth the extra $70 to avoid it. There are other accessories available, including a suet ball holder and water fountain. I've been eyeing the latter for my set-up.
If you've also been obsessively refreshing Bird Buddy's website since last year, you may have noticed it's still preorder only. However, the company has started sending out a few batches. While you probably won't have it immediately after you buy it, production is at least in motion. For now, the price is marked down by $50 to $199. I haven't seen it reach $249 yet, though it's possible when it's officially out of preorder it will rise.
No one needs to spend $200 on a bird feeder. I've gotten the same number of visitors for less than $30. But getting to know the friends that come for mealtime makes my childhood self smile. If only she knew this day would come when she was whistling away at birds from her window! If birding is also your hobby, it could make your life a lot more fun.