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How to Stream Your Own Live Bird Feeder Cam

May 12, 2021

Watching the birds through your window is great, but capturing their visits and sharing them with the world is even better. Bird feeder cams can help you gain a deeper understanding of the nature of your local birds, allow you to capture special moments, and, with BirdBot, let you help ornithology and wildlife researchers around the globe! Here’s how to get started streaming your own live bird feeder cam.

Related: Take BirdBot’s Wildlife Survey

What You’ll Need to Get Started

For a complete beginner who wants to start live streaming their own bird feeder cam, there are three necessary things to have: a bird cam, streaming software, and a solid internet connection.

  • Camera: There are a ton of options when it comes to choosing a wildlife camera for your bird stream. We’ll go over how to pick the right camera in the next section.
  • Steaming Software: You’ll also need streaming software, also known as an encoder, which takes the audio and video from your bird cam to your computer and then transmits it to the streaming platform you choose to host your video on. We’ll go over these in more depth later in the article.
  • Internet Connection: You’ll need to have a strong internet connection to upload the audio and video from your bird cam in real time. We’ll talk about what type of internet speeds you’ll need depending on the platform you’re streaming to later on.

Tips for Choosing a Bird Feeder Camera

We weren’t kidding when we said there are a ton of options for a bird feeder camera; so, how do you pick the right one for your live stream? Here are some tips to consider when picking a bird feeder cam:

  1. Photos, Videos, and Audio: You obviously need video for your live stream, but what about capturing audio or taking photos? Different cameras will offer one, two, or all three of these options.

How important is the image quality to you? Depending on the camera you choose, you can get crystal clear images of the birds, or maybe you simply want to know what kind of animals are roaming your garden.

Do you want close-up shots or ones from a further distance? Camera detection ranges from a few feet to hundreds of feet, depending on which camera you choose.

  1. Camera Resolution: Resolution is about more than megapixels. If you look at reviews of various wildlife and bird feeder cams, you’ll often see that many cameras actually deliver lower resolutions than they advertise. Choose a camera that offers high-resolution video (HD or 4K) at all times. That way, you’ll always get high-quality footage that’s good enough to stream and grab photos with a screenshot.
  1. Exposure: Camera exposure is another important factor to consider when choosing a bird cam for streaming—it determines how well your camera will adapt to changes in lighting. Some cameras will take quality videos in moderate light, but they might struggle when it’s bright or dim.
  1. Detection Speed: For larger animals, detection speed isn’t too important, but when it comes to birds and their speed, it’s essential. When you want to capture birds swooping in to land on their feeder, you’ll benefit immensely from choosing a camera with a fast detection speed, high resolution, and possibly slow-motion settings.
  1. Power Source: You have two main options for the camera’s power source: batteries or electrical outlets. If your camera is going to be in a remote area or somewhere without access to an outlet, batteries become a requirement. If that’s the case, you’ll want a camera with a long battery life—if you’re constantly changing the batteries, you’ll be disturbing the birds more often.
  1. Night Time Capture: If you want to continue your bird cam stream during the night hours, you’ll need a camera that can provide adequate quality in the darkness. You can see activities during the night that you’ll never see during the day.
  1. Usability: Like any technology, some bird cams are intuitive and easy to use, while others, well, aren’t. You’ll want to find one that works well for you so that you don’t run into any technical issues while live streaming your bird feeder camera.
  1. Design and Construction: Since your bird cam is going to be outdoors in all sorts of weather conditions, you’ll want to make sure the camera you choose can hold up to your climate and continue functioning in any element. 

What Is BirdBot?

BirdBot is a unique bird camera designed for live streaming. It’s a machine learning bird cam that helps environmental professionals contribute their findings to science using BirdBot’s AI technology. Because wildlife research relies heavily on collecting data, “citizen scientists” play a crucial role in monitoring wildlife behaviors—if there isn’t anyone around to monitor different locations, live streaming bird cameras can help solve the issue.

Birdbot uses AI to record bird behaviors that many of us don’t normally see. BirdBot captures things like the presence and absence of certain bird species, bird counts, predator detection, and other metrics. 

BirdBot is a smart camera that allows you to view your favorite birds and live stream them while creating wildlife camera networks that can be actively monitored and used for ornithology and wildlife research. 

Do you want to set up a bird feeder cam live stream to enjoy your local wildlife while helping out ornithology and wildlife researchers? Get your early bird BirdBot access here!

A bird perched on a camera

Related: How Birds Provide Ecosystem Services

Choosing Your Streaming Software

Live streaming software is what lets you transmit the video from your bird cam to your streaming platform. Once your camera is up and running, everything needs to get packaged into a practical format for streaming. There are two different types of streaming software (or encoders) to choose from:

  • Software Encoders: Software encoders are programs on your computer that do the encoding for you. They allow for the use of scene-creation and work well with multi-camera setups.
  • Hardware Encoders: Hardware encoders are physical devices that encode video reliably. They are more expensive, though, and encoding is the only thing they are capable of.

Software encoders are the more affordable option (some are even free!), and they offer plenty of utility for almost every bird feeder cam streamer. 

What Internet Speed Do You Need to Stream a Bird Cam?

First, we need to have a basic understanding of download vs. upload speeds. Your internet download speed shows you how much data your computer is able to take in using your connection (usually expressed in megabits per second or Mbps). When streaming videos, it’s your upload speed that’s the most important—this determines how much data your connection can share, e.g., your bird cam video stream.

Most likely, you’ll use YouTube to stream and upload footage from your bird feeder cam, and the platform recommends having an upload speed between 1.5 to 4 megabits per second. But, since speeds fluctuate constantly, you’ll want a 35-40% buffer for your upload speed. So, for the best speeds on YouTube, you’ll want an upload rate of around 5.6 Mbps. A stable internet connection is just as important as your upload speed—it doesn’t matter if you have the fastest internet around if your connection constantly stutters or drops.

Where and How to Stream Your Bird Cam

There are various platforms that you can choose to live stream your bird feeder cam on, but for the sake of this article, we’ll concentrate on using YouTube—it’s free and simple to get started. First, you’ll need to enable live streaming on your accounts by verifying your Youtube account, enabling live streaming in the “channel features” page, and waiting 24 hours for YouTube to activate your live streaming privileges.

Next, you’ll need to set up your bird feeder cam for the stream—we’re going to assume you’re using a software encoder like we mentioned above. Here’s how you do it:

  1. You’ll need to configure your camera to connect with your computer network. The steps to do this vary based on the bird cam you are using—follow the instructions that came with your cam to get it connected to your network.
  2. Next, you’ll want to install a software encoder. We recommend starting with Open Broadcaster Software (OBS); it’s free, simple to use, and works perfectly for our needs. 
  3. To start streaming your bird feeder cam to YouTube, you’ll need to capture the video over your local network. Again, this varies based on your specific camera, but OBS will walk you through the steps to get your cam connected—it should only take a few minutes and isn’t too complicated no matter which type of bird feeder cam you’re using. Note: In YouTube’s “Creator Studio,” you’ll find your “Stream Key.” This key is what you’ll need to show OBS where to stream your video to.
  4. Once prompted by OBS, you’ll enter your unique stream key (make sure to keep this private, or anyone can stream their video to your YouTube channel). 
  5. Go into your YouTube Creator Studio and click on “Start Streaming”—now you can view your bird feeder cam live from anywhere!

Promote Your Live Bird Feeder Cam (If You Want to Share It)

If you want others to enjoy the video from your live bird cam stream, you can work on promoting your YouTube stream on social media to attract bird lovers from all over—we know we’d flock to a new bird stream! Platforms like Facebook and Twitter are a great way to attract bird watchers from around the globe to enjoy your local wildlife. With a few extra steps, you can even live stream your bird feeder cam to Facebook or embed the video right on Twitter, but unless you’re trying to profit from your stream, simply sharing the link to your YouTube is enough to share your wildlife wonders with the world.

How to Attract Birds to Your Feeder Cam

two birds hanging out

Now that your live bird feeder cam stream is up and running, you’re probably wondering how to attract more and more of your feathered friends. Here are some ways to attract more birds to your live stream camera.

  • Make a Bird Feeding Station: Giving your local birds access to the food they need is one of the best ways to attract more of them (and help them thrive in the environment). Different birds prefer different food—by hanging multiple feeders with various types of bird food, you can attract a larger variety of them to your bird feeder cam.
  • Offer Them the Right Treats: Once you have a variety of feeders and food, you’re on the right track to bringing more birds to your camera. Offering them treats is a great way to do that! A big mistake that many beginner bird enthusiasts make is using low-quality or generic feed found in large chain stores. Investing in better treats will make the birds happy and keep them coming back. For example, black oil sunflower seeds will attract many songbirds, and suet cakes attract birds like chickadees, wrens, and woodpeckers.
  • Give Them a Bird Bath: Other than food, birds are attracted to water sources. Basic bird baths are a great start, but adding features that keep the water from staying still is even better. You can attract more birds with things like a small mister or circulating pump on your bird bath. Stable water sources will attract many birds—you might have to install multiple bird baths as more and more start flocking to your location!
  • Encourage Nesting: You can also encourage birds to nest and raise their families near your live bird feeder cam. One way to do this is by setting up various birdhouses, but you can also make sure that they have nesting materials available nearby. You can offer materials in suet cage feeders that they use to build nests, like string, yarn, or even pet fur!
  • Install Perching Sticks: Every bird needs a place they can rest and relax. If you don’t have many trees or bushes around your bird feeding cam, you can install perching sticks so that the birds have a safe place to rest. While they prefer natural features to relax on, they will make use of the perching sticks if there aren’t other options available—these are perfect for areas without as much vegetation.

Do you want to help out ornithology and wildlife researchers while enjoying the live stream from your bird feeder cam? Learn more about the BirdBot camera!