This year, I learned about a project called BirdNET-Pi which, when installed, turns your Raspberry Pi into a 24/7 monitoring station. This station records audio constantly and uses BirdNET’s AI model to identify the birds it hears. I also built a digital counter to track the birds that visit my backyard.
BirdNET-Pi is accessible over your local network once set up and gives you a dashboard of recently detected birds. It will show their spectrographs and a photo from Flickr.
- Raspberry Pi 4B, 3B+ or 0W2, or Le Potato (much cheaper) and wifi adapter [instructions]
- micro SD card
- USB microphone or USB sound card and regular lavalier microphone
I grabbed one of my Raspberry Pi 3B+ and started preparing the SD card according to the installation guide (3B+ 0W2 and 4B). The OS was installed smoothly and the Pi powered on, then the BirdNET-Pi software was installed with a single command once I connected to it over SSH.
The microphone for the BirdNET-Pi setup can be a USB mic or a regular one connected to an external USB sound card (a glorified dongle in this case). I opted for the dongle and regular lav mic since both were available with same-day shipping. Thankfully, once I connected it, the BirdNET-Pi started detecting audio right away.
For my initial, hasty BirdNET-Pi build, I plugged the Raspberry Pi next to my back door and ran the microphone wire under the door, and taped it to the exterior house wall. This picks up the sounds from my backyard birds.
From proof-of-concept to a permanent build
Once this proof of concept was done, I moved on to build a more permanent solution. I researched and found this BirdNET-Pi setup from Pixcam that includes an outdoor enclosure. I picked up all the needed items, substituted the Ethernet port for another USB, and began work on building my own outdoor BirdNET.
Items needed for the outdoor enclosure
- QILIPSU Hinged Cover
- Geekworm Raspberry Pi 4 7mm Embedded Heatsink with Fan
- CNLINKO USB 3.0 Connector
I removed the Pi’s case and then struggled to install a fan/heat sink due to a missing piece. I improvised my way into getting it securely attached.
The fun part was getting the enclosure ready for the Pi. This box is built to house electronics, so it came with a mesh board to which you can attach various components. I drilled some small holes to help attach the Pi to the board, then moved on to the enclosure itself. The guide I followed recommended drilling the holes with some fancy drill bit I didn’t have so I used the largest one I had to start and struggled my way into getting it the right size. Repeat this arduous process for the second hole.
With the box prepped, I screwed in the mesh board, plugged in all the wires, printed cute labels, and admired the work.
The final install
Then I mounted the enclosure near an outdoor outlet next to the backdoor.
I plugged it in and, success, it worked! The only issue I ran into post-installation was I noticed the USB microphone picking up interference. To fix this, I plugged in my previous sound card dongle and 3.5mm lavalier mic and it solved the problem.
Spectrograms and recordings arrive
Here is a clip of a Killdeer the Raspberry Pi captured along with the spectrogram it generated:
Check out this live dashboard I built. It pulls in live recent detections and leverages the BirdWeather API to request the data.
My BirdNET-Pi Station live stats
Birds acoustically detected in the past 24 hours
191087 lifetime detections since 12/22/22
My BirdNET-Pi station listens and analyzes 24/7 the birds that visit my yard. Each detection is automatically logged and submitted to BirdWeather.com. The live stats above reflect recent species and the frequency detected.