One of the simple pleasures of living in the suburbs is watching birds flock to a feeder. Ours regularly gets its share of sparrows, cardinals and mourning doves, with occasional visits by blue jays and even the odd woodpecker. The squirrels have been strangely absent this year, so we haven’t had to refill the feeder as often, which is nice.
However, owing to the fact that one of our cats likes to sneak outside when he can and hunt birds and small rodents, we had to set the bird feeder up quite some distance from anywhere the cat could hide and ambush feeding avians. (We keep the cat indoors, but he takes any opportunity he can to bolt outside when we’re not looking).
Because the feeder is so far from the house, it’s not as easy to get an up close look at the birds who come by. Fortunately, I came up with a tech solution that’s fairly inexpensive and that anyone can do. All you need is an outdoor security camera and a smart display.
First, I set up the Blink Outdoor camera near the feeder. You want to make sure that it’s not too close, otherwise you won’t see much of the action. Our feeder hangs from an iron rod that’s bent like a shepherd’s crook (a very tall J). Then, I simply mounted the camera to the vertical section. If I could, I would like to move the camera back about six inches or so, because I can only see the lower half of the feeder.
Then, I connected the Blink Outdoor to the Amazon Echo Show 10.You can use any Alexa-enabled or Google Assistant-enabled smart display that’s compatible with the Blink Outdoor — I just happened to have the Echo Show 10 set up in my kitchen. However, this $249 device is expensive and large. More affordable options would be the $79 Echo Show 8 or the $55 Echo Show 5. If you have a Fire TV streaming device, you could even watch a feed on your TV.
You could also conceivably use any outdoor security camera too, but you’ll want to make sure that your bird feeder is within range of your home’s Wi-Fi. The Blink Outdoor is well suited for this purpose, not just because it’s very small and easy to mount: it uses a proprietary wireless signal to communicate with a base station. It also has excellent battery life, lasting up to two years according to Blink (which I’ve found to be pretty accurate). And, at $99, it’s not overly expensive either. In fact, one of my Tom's Guide colleagues has also taken the same approach of using a Blink camera to watch wildlife in his garden.
Now, whenever a bird comes to the feeder, I simply tell Alexa to show me a feed from the bird cam, and within seconds, I get a live view with audio of our feathered friends feasting. It’s proving a real treat not just for me, but for my daughter too, and provided us an opportunity to teach her about different kinds of birds. Our cat — well, he’s not as impressed.