Things to Know Before Buying a Bird Box Camera
A bird box camera offers the perfect way to become a wildlife expert in your very own garden. They’re also sure to captivate the interest of old and young family members alike as you monitor the activity of your garden visitors.
These cameras attach to the lid or roof of your bird box, offering fantastic insight into the life of your nesting birds.
There’s a huge range of bird box cameras on the market, of varying quality and design.
If you’re looking for the best bird box camera for your garden, you might not know how to start your search. The following tips will help you to make an informed decision:
The Different Style Options
The first decision you’ll have to make is whether to opt for just a camera kit, or a bird box + camera combo.
Bird Box + Camera Combo
These are easy to set up and ideal if you don’t already have birds nesting in your garden.
The biggest advantage of buying both the bird box and camera as a combo is that the box will be specifically designed to work with the camera. These boxes usually have certain features that work to improve the set up and video quality of the camera. For example:
- A separate compartment to fit the camera into – you’ll be able to take the camera out without disturbing the birds.
- A quick-release camera – the camera will be easy to remove from its secured position, again limiting disruption to the nesting birds.
- A window – this will provide light and improve the quality of the daytime footage.
The main disadvantage of these box/camera combos is that you don’t always have as much choice when choosing a box as you otherwise would. Your choice has to be based on what boxes are available with the cameras.
A camera kit, consisting of just a camera and its cables/fittings (with no bird box included) may be a better choice if you already have birds nesting in your garden.
You can install these cameras in bird boxes that you already own, which is great if you know that birds are already comfortable with them.
Of course, a camera kit is also a good option if you’ve recently bought a bird box and don’t want to buy another one, or if you’re looking to buy a specific type of bird box and the design isn’t available as a combo with a camera.
They can be a bit more fiddly to set up, which is to be expected, especially as the bird box you’ll be fitting it into wasn’t necessarily designed for use with a camera.
You might need to be a little bit more adept at DIY to install a camera like this, especially compared to the bird box + camera combos. But, they’re still relatively straight forward so don’t be too put off.
Choosing a Wireless or ‘Cabled’ System
Bird box cameras are either wireless or need to be connected to the television using cables.
Wireless units often need to be plugged in for power, but don’t require wires to transmit the camera images to a display inside. ‘Cabled’ systems need to be plugged in for power, as well as connected into the TV.
A quick note on power source: standard bird-box cameras are mains powered, but there are also solar-powered and battery-powered cameras available, as well as units powered by Power-over-Ethernet ports.
Cabled systems tend to offer better image quality because there is a direct connection to the camera. However, it does mean that you will need to find a way to run the cables from the garden into your house.
This may require drilling a hole for the cable, or running it through an open window when you want to watch the camera.
There’s generally only one cable to contend with, which splits into three cables at the end of its length. These connect to the ‘video’ and ‘audio’ jacks on your TV, as well as to a power socket.
Cables tend to be either 20 m or 30 m in length, so getting one of these models might depend on the location of your camera in relation to your television – if a cable won’t reach, you might need a wireless model.
Wireless systems don’t require a cable to connect them to your television, tablet or computer.
That said, they still require access to a power supply.
Different cameras connect to different power sources, so you may still need to run a power cable from the camera to a mains socket or Power over Ethernet connection.
Other options, like solar-powered or battery-powered cameras are wireless in every sense of the word.
There are two main types of wireless camera:
- Some cameras transmit video to a wireless signal convertor. These will come with an additional receiver unit which gets connected to the TV. You’ll then be able to watch the live-stream from your television.
- The benefit of this is that you don’t need to run a cable to your television. The drawback to these receivers is that they often get quite weak reception, so your bird-box camera and television should ideally be within 20 m of each other.
- Other cameras transfer video via your wireless internet by using a Power over Ethernet connection. They can then stream the video to devices connected to your Wi-Fi network, such as laptops, tablets and phones.
- The benefit of this connection is that you can get a strong reception as long as your internet is good. Plus, you’ll be able to view the video on different devices. The drawback is you will need a Power over Ethernet connection in your house, within a cable’s reach of the bird box.
If you have a larger garden, or an ‘inconveniently’ placed bird box, you’ll probably find that the best bird box camera will be a wireless model. At least then there’s only the power supply to worry about – sometimes there’s a limit to how much wire you can trail to your TV, no matter how determined you are.
Image Quality and Viewing Width
Look for a high resolution camera to make sure you’re getting the sort of picture quality that you’re hoping for. Some bird box cameras are HD, which is definitely a buzzword to look out for.
It’s quite common to find cameras that offer ‘700 TVL’ resolution, which is also quite high quality, yet not as expensive as HD. Anything under 700 TVL may not give you the clear image you’re hoping for.
When it comes to viewing width, ideally you want it to be as large an angle possible. Something around 100° will make sure you really get a good view inside the nest. The bigger the angle, the more you’ll be able to see of the bird box’s interior.
When it comes to improving the viewing experience further, a built-in microphone can add another level of interest. As you might expect, it will allow you to hear, as well as see, what’s going on, which can be really fascinating.
Night Vision in Bird Box Cameras
Many bird box cameras come with infrared LEDs that allow you to monitor what’s going on, even at night.
The discreet infrared LEDs won’t disturb the birds while they nest, so you don’t need to worry about these cameras causing them any problems – birds aren’t able to see infrared light.
If you’re hoping to frequently watch the birds at night, the importance of a decent-quality camera (HD or 700 TVL, as mentioned above) becomes even more significant. Distinguishing between shapes when using night vision can be a lot harder when the picture quality isn’t good to begin with.
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Bird Box Camera FAQs
How do bird box cameras work?
Bird box cameras are often no bigger than a matchbox. They come with a bracket that screws inside the top of the bird box that the camera attaches to.
They don’t always record video, but live stream it to either your television, computer, or tablet.
The style that you buy will dictate how you can view the live stream. Some cameras connect via cable or wireless receiver to the television. Others plug into a Power over Ethernet cable which allows you to view live streams on any device connected to the same WiFi network.
How can I encourage birds to nest in my garden?
Use bird feeders
Attract birds to your garden by placing bird feeders near your bird box. Feed will encourage birds to explore your garden, and you can choose the feed based on the type of bird you are hoping to attract!
When the birds have discovered your bird box, move the feeders away so that you don’t disturb the nesting process.
Put out a variety of food
Just like humans, different birds have different tastes! Blue tits enjoy peanuts and sunflower seeds, while robins and thrushes like mealworms. Put out a variety of feed and you’re more likely to attract a range of birds.
Use the right type of bird box
Different birds prefer different types of bird boxes. Tits like bird boxes with small entryways, while robins like more space. So if you want to attract a variety of birds, invest in a few different types of bird box!
Remember to clean out and repair your bird boxes in the winter, ready for the birds to arrive back in the spring.
Put your bird box in the right place
Ensure your bird box is in the right location in your garden. Most birds prefer to nest relatively close to the ground in bushes, so don’t place the bird box too high up. You’ve got to make sure however, that the bird box is still be out of reach of predators.
Getting birds to nest in your garden is a matter of covering all of their needs – that includes a good supply of food and water, shelter, security, and some cosy nesting spots. If you can provide these things, birds will be much more likely to set up home in your garden.
I have a very small bird box. Can I install a camera in it? And how?
Bird box cameras are very small, often no bigger than a matchbox, so it’s very probable that one will fit in a small bird box.
If you’re worried, check the product specification for more details on its size, and contact the manufacturer to ask if necessary.
The cameras come with a bracket which you screw to the roof of the bird box, or high up on the inside wall, where it is out of harm’s way. You then simply attach the camera to the bracket and you are ready to go.
How do I set the focus of my camera ready for the birds to start nesting?
When setting up your bird box camera, place an item, such as a stone, that is slightly larger than the bird you are expecting and adjust the camera so that this is in focus.
Alternatively, choose a bird box that provides access to the camera through the roof so that you can adjust the camera focus without disturbing the birds.
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