I’ve been a big fan of the Bird Buddy smart bird feeder since I received it in late November 2022 (see my original review). It’s been a solid smart bird feeder, but it’s not without its faults. Namely, the app, while cute, is slow and cumbersome to work with when you have many feathered visitors. Lots of notifications and many clicks are required to triage all of the photos and to review visitors.
Update 4/27/23: Bird Buddy released a major update to their app that addresses all of the complaints I had about the workflow.
Update 2/17/24: Read the new comparison between two premium smart bird feeders, the new Birdfy Bamboo and the Bird Buddy.
As with any popular crowd-funded product, many copycat products will pop up that attempt to capitalize on the hype. I’ve been aware of many smart bird feeders that became available on Amazon and other retailers after the Bird Buddy feeder hit the market.
One of these competitors, AUXCO, reached out recently and sent a smart bird feeder unit for me to review.
That being said, this review is coming from a neutral stance, with a focus on how it stands on its own and how it compares to a leader in the smart bird feeder space.
- The tech specs of the AUXCO beat Bird Buddy nearly in every category
- Bird Buddy has more flexible mounting options
- Bird Buddy has automated photo capture/ID vs. AUXCO’s more manual flow
- AUXCO’s app is unintuitive whereas Bird Buddy is user-friendly
Bird feeder housing
The AUXCO feeder is much bigger than the Bird Buddy and holds twice the amount of seed. It is refilled by opening and pivoting the roof which was really nice. It was easy to dump in cups of seed and it held SO much. AUXCO’s smart bird feeder includes an extended perch to accommodate a variety of birds.
Due to the way it’s mounted, the only way to remove the feeder and bring it indoors for cleaning is to remove the three screws on the bottom. This isn’t ideal if you like to keep a clean feeder.
Bird Buddy’s design flex is that its main designer was the lead on Google’s Chromecast project. This expertise led to a beautiful feeder, but I’ve seen a lot of feedback from the community about various components of the feeder failing through regular use or due to wildlife.
For refilling, there is a hinged door that opens on the backside. This is one of the feeder components I’ve heard of failing the most, the hinges can break and no replacement parts are currently offered.
The chunky perch platform design could be better to accommodate differently-sized birds. Bird Buddy fans have designed 3D-printed perches which are attached to two anchor points on the platform. These perches are usually sold through Etsy.
Solar panel roof
Bird Buddy’s solar panel roof design has an exposed external wire which the community says is often chewed through by squirrel visitors. The AUXCO’s solar roof contains the wire completely inside the unit negating this risk.
|Extended Perch option
The AUXCO feeder comes with two mounting options, a wall mount, and a tree strap. My first attempt to mount this feeder was using the strap. The trees in my backyard are very small, and when I attempted to tighten the bird feeder to the tree, once secured, it sagged and pointed downward. This wasn’t going to work and I was concerned about its long-term stability. The wall mount worked fine on my fence and that’s where it sits currently.
Out of the box, the Bird Buddy feeder comes with a universal pole mount or a hanging cord option. My Bird Buddy is currently on a pole mount and it works well, as did the hanging cord I used prior to the pole.
Smart feeder camera module
The brains of any smart bird feeder, the removable camera module is what detects and photographs or records birds as they visit your feeder. These modules sit inside the bird feeder and recharge via solar making them both self-sufficient. Neither of the bird feeders required manual charging once set up.
I’ll speak more on this below, but the Bird Buddy automatically captures photos and videos of visitors without any interaction whatsoever. The AUXCO feeder sends motion detection notifications and will capture photos in its history logs but identification of photos must manually be initiated in the app. I couldn’t figure out how to ID photos of birds that were taken automatically, only when viewing the live stream.
|Field of view
|2-panel solar roof
|USB-C or optional 1-panel solar roof
|Local 64GB micro SD (included) + 30-day cloud
Set up and pairing
The AUXCO smart feeder came with a sim card ejection pin to place the module into pairing mode. Once ready for pairing, I was told either the network name or password to my guest wifi network was “too long” and it forced me to allow the camera onto my main network. After inputting the network credentials into the app, you hold a QR code displayed on your phone in front of the camera to connect it to your network.
The Bird Buddy app directs you to hold a button on the camera module to initiate the pairing process and I was able to then connect to my guest network successfully through the app’s onboarding flow. I do this out of best practice and precaution to isolate any non-critical devices from my main home network.
A lot of factors can affect photo quality: weather, time of day, the distance of the bird, and more. Here are some examples of photos taken automatically by both feeders.
Bird detections and accuracy
I planned to do an analytical comparison of the volume of detections and accuracy of the automated photo-taking capability between these two feeders. To my dismay, I learned that the AUXCO feeder simply detects motion snaps pictures which can be seen in the history tab. The identification feature seems to only work when initiating it from the live stream. This tossed any direct comparison out the window. What I can say is the AUXCO camera’s motion detection is very sensitive and notified me of bird motion almost immediately.
This is a different approach than the Bird Buddy which detects birds, captures photos and video, analyzes them, then sends a notification that a new bird has visited. It’s not as quick, but it takes all the manual work out of the process. The notifications you review are all pre-identified with a bunch of photos ready for review.
Due to the stark contrast in capturing bird photos, a direct comparison of the accuracy of the bird identification was difficult. Bird Buddy automates the whole process and, when unsure, asks the user which species is visible in the photo. This is presumably to train their AI model.
The AUXCO feeder app has a section and button to perform an identification of a photo. It will suggest its ID, showing the bird’s English, Chinese, and Latin names, and a confidence score. The photos I tried the identification feature on were all spot on, but I was selective to ensure the photos I captured were clear and well-lit.
The smart bird feeder app can make or break your experience of viewing feathered visitors.
Bird Buddy’s app is full of enchanting animations and UX elements that make it fun to use.
But, if you’re keeping up with all the visitors, the triaging of all the species and photos makes it a time-consuming task. It takes multiple clicks, swipes, and more clicks to triage new photos and videos that are captured, and when there are many “postcards” waiting for review, this takes a long time. A bulk review or approval system is desperately needed to take manual work out of the equation. Update 4/27/23: The app was updated recently and has greatly improved the visitor and photo review process. The app has an inbox tab where you review a list of recent bird visitors. You can swipe to dismiss them or click to review the photos. Visitors containing a new or mystery bird are clearly indicated to help you prioritize what to review.
Birds now appear on the inbox tab in a list at the top. It’s easy to scan see who’s new, and swipe away any birds you’re not interested in.
The Bird Buddy app shines in its intuitiveness. Anyone should be able to pick up and use this app to review bird visitors without any explanation.
The app has a charming collection page that shows all the species that have visited and galleries for each, allowing to you see your own photos and those from the Bird Buddy community.
AUXCO’s app is cluttered, slow, and feels bloated with features unrelated to a smart bird feeder. The camera module contains a Tuya chip, which is a common white-label smart home device chip from China. Tuya products are usually found in smart home products on Amazon and the app had some evidence of this. In the pairing instructions and other areas of the app, there are references to lighting and home automation capabilities that the average bird enjoyer will likely never use. It was strange.
A major gripe is each time you open the AUXCO app, it forces the video live stream to be initiated and connected. If your feeder has weak to moderate wifi, this takes a long time and can often not work at all.
The app has so many different buttons and screens to navigate through. This makes it confusing and unintuitive to use. I’m extremely tech-savvy and I had difficulty navigating this app and often felt frustrated. The is no clear guidance on how to best use the app aside from a small instruction booklet included in the box.
Through my use, it seems the camera captures photos of bird visitors by taking a screenshot of the live videos. This results in quality that probably could be better.
There is a collections page in the AUXCO “Bird Lovers” app as well, but even though I captured photos and identified them using the app’s features, nothing ever appeared on this screen. This should be easier.
AUXCO’s smart feeder started detecting motion and taking photos of ME as soon as it was connected to the wifi, while I was still getting things set up. It took over 100 photos of me inside my house while I was taking pictures of everything for the review. This makes me extremely uncomfortable. Any time you go near the feeder outside, it will take pictures of you.
Bird Buddy seems to respect privacy a lot more. The feeder and housing have magnets and only will only capture photos when it is placed inside the housing. It also doesn’t appear to save or display photos of humans in the camera, only bird visitors.
The AUXCO bird feeder has a significant lead in price when comparing similar setups. At the time of publishing, its listing price is $259 but it has, probably a permanent, $60 coupon option when purchasing on Amazon, bringing its price to around $199. Bird Buddy’s price with the comparable solar room comes in at $269.
|AUXCO Smart Bird Feeder (includes solar roof)
|$200 (when using the $60 coupon option)
|Bird Buddy + optional solar roof
When all is said and done, the differences between these two products are night and day. On paper, the AUXCO feeder is better in almost every way: a better camera, more seed capacity, squirrel resistance, included solar, and extended perch. But these specs mean less when one feeder is largely automated and seamless and the other requires a lot of manual work to get a similar experience.
I plan to share all of this feedback with the manufacturer and hope they will implement some of the features that give Bird Buddy an edge in user experience. I will update this review if improvements are made to the Bird Lover app. Update 4/27/23: The Bird Buddy app recently revived a major update which greatly improves the experience of reviewing photos and bird visitors. See above.
After having used the Bird Buddy for around three months, if I were to have spent my own money on the AUXCO smart bird feeder product, I would have returned it. I don’t have the time or desire to play virtual photographer or to manually initiate identifications from the live stream every time a bird visits the feeder.
There is a lot of room for improvement with both products, which I believe can be addressed with software updates.
If you want an automated and organized experience for your bird feeder visitors, Bird Buddy is a good choice. On the flip side, if you value filling your feeder less and care less about the bird identification flow, AUXCO will capture photos and video adequately.
As with any crowd-funded product, getting up to speed in mass production can be a challenge. As of the time of this review, the shipping times for the Bird Buddy are about a month out at best (much better than before) while the AUXCO Smart Bird Feeder is available for delivery in two days (via Amazon). This may be a deciding factor if you are looking to get this as a gift for a family member or friend.
Have you used either of these feeders? What has your experience been?