This Summer my 5 year old son and I wanted to work on a project that would be fun, educational, and related to nature. While enjoying a beautiful Colorado summer evening on Grandpa and Grandma’s deck watching all of the hummingbirds fight over 6 spots on their hummingbird feeder, it came to us. Let’s build a bird feeder that takes close up pictures of the birds and posts them to Twitter! We had our work cut out for us. We reviewed what others have created on instructables and found this post Image Capturing Bird Feeder. Since we already had a Raspberry Pi and a Pi Camera we decided to take our own spin on this great idea.
This Instructable will help you build your very own tweeting bird feeder so you too can enjoy the photos from the local birds in your neck of the woods. To clear up the ambiguity, this bird feeder does not twitter /ˈtwitər/ (verb) – give a call consisting of repeated light tremulous sounds. This bird feeder takes pictures of visiting birds while they are eating and posts these pictures and a bird-related caption to the social media website Twitter.
Step 1: Choose a Bird House Design
There are many Instructables for building a bird house. Browse through the birdhouse Instructables and find one that you really like. When searching for the perfect one, keep in mind these guidelines:
- Even though we are making a tweeting bird feeder, we need a bird house to protect the Raspberry Pi and Pi Camera from the outside elements.
- Choose one that allows you to make a large “window” viewing area; otherwise your photos from inside the birdhouse won’t be able to capture the entire bird at your feeder.
- Choose one that you can modify to build a large platform (at least 6″ x 4″) to hold the bird food.
- Choose one that allows you to have a roof over the food since the food won’t be inside the covered area where the Raspberry Pi is. Birds don’t really like wet or spoiled seeds.
Step 2: Gather Materials
Assemble all of your materials.
- Assemble all of the materials for the birdhouse you selected, following their instructions.
- Raspberry Pi Model B
- Raspberry Pi Camera
- 4 GB (or higher) SD card
- IR proximity sensor (I used this one http://www.adafruit.com/product/164)
- Raspberry Pi Power cord
- Raspberry Pi Case (any case that provides a space to run the Pi Camera ribbon cable and 3 wires from the Pi board to the IR proximity sensor)
- Miniature WiFi USB module (I used this one http://www.adafruit.com/products/814)
Follow the instructions on the birdhouse you selected to assemble the birdhouse.
Step 4: Customize the Birdhouse for the Raspberry Pi
Now it is time to customize the bird house. We will do this by adding a tray to hold the bird seed, creating a large window so the IR proximity sensor can detect birds and the camera can capture full-length photos, making a roof or shelter to cover the bird seed, and also protect the Raspberry Pi from the elements, and making a platform to for the Raspberry Pi.
- Cut a 6″ wide by 4″ deep by 0.5″ high piece of wood for the platform. The bird seed will be placed on this platform, so you will need one large enough to fit a pile of seeds and also provide room for birds to stand to eat.
- Attach the platform to the front of the birdhouse.
- Create a viewing window on the front of the birdhouse directly centered in front of the platform. The viewing window should start 1/4″ above the platform and be 5″ tall by 5″ wide.
- Create a roof or shelter that extends over the platform. Attach the roof or shelter to your birdhouse so that it covers the entire platform holding the seeds.
- Cut a piece of wood 2″ by 4″ by 5″. This will provide a raised platform for the Raspberry Pi and IR proximity sensor. Attach the Raspberry Pi platform inside the birdhouse centered with the viewing window, about 1″-2″ from the front of the window.
- I also placed a piece of glass over the viewing area to protect the Raspberry Pi from water and animals that want to get inside the bird feeder. Just remember to place the IR distance sensor on the outside of the glass since the IR will not go through glass.
Step 5: Attach the IR Proximity Sensor
In this step we will attach the Sharp IR proximity sensor. The sensor comes with three wires: red, black, and white.
- Attach the red wire to +5V (pin 2)
- Attach the black wire to Ground (pin 6)
- Attach the white wire to GPIO 4 (pin 7)
Raspberry Pi Version 2 Pinout Photo by PinballSP
For more detail: Tweeting Bird Feeder