The Best Camera Bird Feeder for Backyard Birdwatching

For best image quality, battery life and tech features, Birdfy is worth the splurge and makes the perfect gift for amateur birders and ornithologists alike. However, don't expect these futuristic feeders to do one very simple task that's traditionally expected from bird feeders.

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August 04, 2023

Birdfy Birds Image

Backyard songbirds are the perfect little intruders. My garden would feel empty and just plain sad without them. If you’ve ever wondered what types of birds are chirping away in your trees, a camera bird feeder is a great way to learn. It’s like a Ring doorbell (with free snacks) just for birds with real-time alerts, video clips and images delivered to your phone. I’ve already shopped around to find the best bird feeders, and now I’ve found the best camera bird feeder. Here’s why the NETVUE Birdfy AI is worth the buy for bird lovers.

The Birdfy

The Birdfy AI is made by NETVUE, a brand that specializes in home security tech. (If you already have a NETVUE home security system, the Birdfy adds on and connects with your larger network of cameras.) There are a couple of products and options for Birdfy, but each one features a sleek white modern base with either a bright blue or yellow matching roof and perch. The feeder also comes with a solar-charging pad as well as mounting accessories and a squirrel baffle. In the last year, NETVUE has rolled out several attachments for feeding all kinds of birds, from a hummingbird nectar tray to an orange spear for orioles.

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The AI edition is larger and comes with the company’s proprietary bird-identifying technology. At around $250 (on sale on Amazon right now!), it’s more expensive, but the larger perch is worth it to see multiple birds visit and share a meal at the same time. Under $200, there’s the smaller Birdfy Lite Feeder which doesn’t include AI tech, and the Birdfy Lite, which is just a camera and not integrated into a feeder. For any of the Birdfy cameras, you’ll need Wi-Fi to connect to your phone.

Backyard Bird Basics

Before I go into camera specs and performance, it’s important to note that this is still a bird feeder, and with bird feeders, comes responsibility. While Birdfy is IP65 watertight and weatherproof, this isn’t a yard toy to put up and forget about all year. Bird feeders — especially hummingbird feeders — have to be cleaned at least once a week. Depending on where you live and how hot and humid it is, it could be up to three times a week. Seed, nectar and other bird feed rots and molds fast, and that can make birds sick or even kill them.

Food matters, too. I highly suggest visiting your local bird supplies store for a recommended seed blend for birds in your area. As a general rule, look for blends with high amounts of black oil sunflower seeds as pretty much any songbird loves them. I avoid cheap bags with high amounts of corn filler or safflower seeds as most songbirds could care less about these. Wagner’s has a great general mix for all kinds of backyard birds that you can order on Amazon. If you have Amazon Prime, it’s eligible for the subscribe and save option.

For hummingbird nectar, we’ve got the easiest recipe that will save you so much money compared to the pre-bottled concentrate. And in my experience, homemade attracts more hummers. Though in a pinch, the new canned clear nectar from Perky Pet is fine. (My daily-visiting Anna’s hummingbirds don't seem to be a fan of it, though.) But please, please — Whatever you do, whether you DIY or buy, don’t use red-dyed nectar. Yes, the color red attracts hummers, but the dye can be fatal and is absolutely unnecessary.

Straightforward, Sturdy Installation

Compared to other camera feeders, this wasn’t the simplest no-assembly-required setup, but it’s the most secure. One camera feeder I looked at just came with a simple shoestring rope to hang the feeder. It made the whole unit spin constantly and few birds were interested in hopping aboard. Birdfy comes with a couple of different options, from a full mount kit with screws to an incredibly strong Velcro strap which I tested on both a tree and fencing in my yard. I love this option because it’s renter-friendly, tree-friendly and doesn’t require holes in your fencing.

Once set up, the feeder is incredibly easy to fill with seed. The little roof just pops up and folds over so you can fill the 1.5-liter clear bin which will last you about a week, depending on how much activity you have. My local chickadees are voracious, so sometimes it requires a refill mid-week.

Charging Freedom

You’ll need to download the companion app for NETVUE and pair the feeder camera to your Wi-Fi network. Mine paired instantly even with the device far from our router in the house, but what really impressed me is the battery life. This camera lasted a month and a half — weeks longer compared to other cameras — on one charge. That’s the only time I’ve plugged it in to charge because the included solar panel is life-changing. I truly didn’t think that it would get enough sun up here in the Pacific Northwest to recharge and stay charged, but it has, even in the rainy months! It's even located in a shady corner that only gets a couple of hours of sun a day.

Birdfy Birds Image Capture

Solid Picture Quality

Unlike other brands, you can adjust the camera angle on Birdfy. That’s a game-changer because these cameras tend to skew a little fisheye. Most importantly, it has a higher resolution than others. The Birdfy camera shoots in 1080p with the option to toggle to HD in the app. This is higher than other popular feeders which shoot in 720p. While that’s still HD, the more than one million extra pixels make a huge difference when you’re looking at feather definition or if you’re looking at a single strand of spider web gently swaying in the breeze. It was so clearly defined on camera that I thought a ghost was going in and out of our side door for 20 minutes.

Birdfy Hummingbird Image

In addition to being high-definition, Birdfy has eight times magnification so you can really see the details, from crown to nape to rump to tail. And the night vision is crystal clear. This is my favorite feature because I’m not an early bird, but my local hummers tend to come out at 5 a.m. With the camera, I don’t miss them. There are two modes for night vision: white light, which uses the camera’s flashlight and gives you color video at night, and infrared, which is black and white.

Birdfy Night Vision of Hummingbird

You can always watch a live view from your phone, but in general, the camera is motion activated. You can change how sensitive that is because it will catch any and all motion. I had to drop down the alerts as tree branches blowing in the wind were generating too many notifications. The medium setting will still catch a tree limb or even a bumblebee from time to time, but in general, it’s the best setting for bird movement. However, one thing to note about motion activation is that these cameras don’t retroactively save footage. So, the video clips and photos you receive, aren’t triggered until motion happens. This can be frustrating as video clips range from 10 to 20 seconds. So, sometimes you get one second of a bird eating and flying away and then 19 seconds of your empty backyard.

Easy to Navigate App

Like any other NETVUE security camera, Birdfy connects to NETVUE’s existing app. (So, you can actually use Birdfy as an additional security camera.) The app is not as cute as other popular bird feeder apps and certainly doesn’t have a birding aesthetic, but it’s intuitive with a streamlined interface.

Birdfy Phone Alert Graphic

Like other apps, you can get push notifications when motion is activated. I love these surprise alerts, especially when a hummer is at the feeder because the app will let you jump over to live view to watch in real time, but if you can’t watch, the motion alert triggers a video clip that automatically saves to the app. You can then download it to your camera roll or even share it via text from the app. Content is organized by time and date which is especially handy when learning about different birds and their schedules.

Birdfy Phone Live View Graphic

Additional features in the app include pest deterrents such as bright light, siren and the ability to speak through the speaker. However, these were all useless — more on that later.

Birdfy Phone Squirrel Notifications Graphic

When a video is created, Birdfy’s AI kicks in and analyzes the footage for identification. NETVUE claims that Birdfy can identify more than 6,000 bird species. And ideally, it identifies the bird in real time and sends you a push notification that a specific bird is at your feeder, but this rarely happens. The AI function needs work. It typically identifies bright, colorful males or birds with distinct, contrasting patterns correctly. However, I found that in general these bird feeder cameras really struggle with black and brown plumage, which most often means females are incorrectly identified. It’s very cool when it works, but most of the time it doesn’t. So, I’d still recommend having a Sibley guidebook or laminated quick guide handy for correctly identifying birds. The regional pamphlets are perfect for lowkey birders just curious about what’s in the backyard.

Birdfy Phone AI Graphic

Nifty Attachments

While the AI is lacking, the accessories are what sold me on Birdfy. The Hummee tray attachment turns the feeder into a hummingbird feeder and the camera is able to capture the wings beautifully. But a word of caution: I would not recommend using the hummingbird attachment if you’re still using it as a bird feeder. The seeds get everywhere and make the hummingbird area dirty, and hummers are very, very particular. I love chickadees and their little tuxedos, but they are chaos. They’re messy and aggressive, and no hummer is going to visit a feeder when other birds are hogging the real estate. I now keep the seed reservoir empty and just use the Birdfy as a secondary hummingbird feeder.

Birdfy Camera Example of Bird

This dark-eyed junco is enjoying the mess that two chickadees left behind.

This dark-eyed junco is enjoying the mess that two chickadees left behind.

Just recently, NETVUE also released a multi-feeder attachment for oranges, suet and more. I’m really excited to try this in the winter with suet blocks.

Birdfy Expectation vs Reality Phone Graphic

Expectations vs. Reality

Expectations vs. Reality

Pest Problems

Here’s what I don’t love about the Birdfy and all camera bird feeders I’ve seen: They stand no chance against pests. The hummingbird feeder doesn’t come with an ant moat or any built-in design to deter ants, and the bird feeder itself is an open buffet for squirrels. Birdfy does come with a basic baffle, but it’s incredibly flimsy and the squirrels climb right over.

Birdfy Squirrel Capture

I didn't need an app full of high-def squirrel photos, but that's what I've got.

I didn't need an app full of high-def squirrel photos, but that's what I've got.

I had to stop using the bird feeder altogether because my backyard turned into a mega scurry. It was horrifying, and no smart tech feature did anything. Flashlight? Nope. Using the Wizard of Oz speaker? Nope. And that siren? Nope. That thing is so loud, and I’m sure my neighbors thought a tornado was coming. The squirrels, however, were unphased. Because of this lack of defense, I can’t recommend the Birdfy or any camera bird feeder as a primary bird feeder. It just doesn’t have the design that other problem-solving feeders do.

Birdfy Squirrel Hummingbird Feeder Capture

This jerk even went for my sugar water!

This jerk even went for my sugar water!

Worth It?

Bottom line: These bird feeder cameras aren’t perfect, and Birdfy’s AI needs improvement. I also don’t love the lack of pest deterrents, especially when using seed in the regular tray, but for hummingbird lovers, this is an amazing way to get up close with hummers without harming them. While I try to limit my screen time, there’s something so cheerful about waking up to a visit from an Anna’s hummer. The app is the first thing I check before emails now, and it’s a much more heartening way to start the day.

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