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Technology for the Birds

Updated: Apr 1

While the idea of extending one’s smart home to one’s birdhouse may seem obv to today’s tech-savvy young adults, ornithologists of the 20th century considered mounting video cameras in nesting boxes as verboten for several reasons. Practically speaking, the video quality from cameras “of old” did not provide high enough resolution to be useful for research which strives for accurate data and recordings. Other technical limitations like hardware—cords, large cameras and cumbersome mountings—required invasive installation and maintenance. Understandably, bird experts fervently objected to any process that would alter the birds’ behavior in any way.


Ornithologists’ concerns were real. Pure, “naturalistic” observation is rare. Bird experts who objected to video birdhouses were not just protecting the birds’ privacy but were trying to minimize the Hawthorne Effect—the tendency for research subjects to act differently when they know they are being watched. Social scientists go to great lengths to conceal their monitoring equipment in their efforts to capture truly candid “real life” activities. In the same way, ornithologists feared that birds would change their tune in the presence of cameras—altering their nesting behaviors, feeding patterns or interactions with their offspring, even abandoning their young altogether. On the human side, research data resulting from unintentional intrusions would confound the study findings if those changed patterns of behavior were mischaracterized as “natural.”


Times have changed

The marvel of today’s engineering? Now we have palm-sized, wireless, high-definition security video cameras like eufy and Blink. The latter company was started by a team of MIT graduates including CEO Peter Besen, who formerly co-founded Sand Video, a forward-thinking company that developed novel solutions for video compression—the “first company to implement the H.264 compression standard in silicon.” (Source: Founder bios, Blink.com) Modern wireless security cameras allow discreet observation of nesting birds because of technological improvements:

  1. Longer Battery life     

  2. Minimized power cords         

  3. Silent, almost invisible operation       


Putting it All Together

A video-enabled modern birdhouse combines the best of both worlds: a welcoming habitat for your feathered friends and a convenient way to enjoy them like never before.


The Peep Show’s Quick-Change camera mount plays nice with many of today’s home security cameras, allowing the user to update to new technologies at any time. This aftermarket adaptability is a big deal…so much so that it is covered under provisional U.S. patents. The mounting hardware is specially constructed to position the security camera at the appropriate height and angle to observe nesting birds as unobtrusively as possible.


“Eyes on” from Virtually Anywhere

No dedicated monitors are needed. Video of birdhouse denizens streams directly to a phone no matter where on earth you happen to be.


“On a recent sailing in Antarctica, I was able to use the ship’s wifi to check on my Peep Shows in Alaska... there I was sailing the south pole while checking in on my nesting box 12,000 miles away in the north pole. Amazing.” — Steve Gray, CEO, The Urban Bird

As of late 2023, there are now wireless cameras that don’t even use wifi... rather, they connect directly to cell towers, allowing cameras to be situated in extremely remote locations. A separate phone plan is usually required, but for the benefit of monitoring bird populations off the beaten path, likely worth the additional cost. (Source: https://us.eufy.com/products/e8150121?_pos=2&_sid=97754dfec&_ss=r)


Night Vision

In the past few decades night vision cameras have leapt forward in development and proliferation, but how did we get here? Night vision technology was initially developed for military applications. During World War II, the United States and Germany both made significant strides in creating rudimentary night vision devices using primarily infrared technology. Development continued through the Vietnam and Korean Wars, giving soldiers a tactical advantage, especially in guerrilla warfare.


By the late 20th century, night vision technology began transitioning from military uses to civilian applications, but was still primarily the domain of law enforcement and security companies. 1990s-era technology relied on image intensification, amplifying available ambient light to create visible images. In the early 21st century, digital night vision technology emerged. Instead of relying solely on amplifying existing light, digital cameras used sensors and infrared illumination to capture images in near-total darkness. This shift to digital technology significantly improved image quality and reduced the size of night vision devices.


Through the aughts and 2010s, miniaturization of components and economies of scale brought down the cost of night vision cameras. After Apple introduced the first smartphone in 2007, digital applications burgeoned. Technologies formerly accessible only to governments and large companies were exposed to and embraced by the masses, gaining adoption more quickly than ever. As demand for night vision devices grew in consumer domains like hunting and wildlife observation, manufacturers were able to produce them in larger quantities, leading to cost reductions. Advancements in image sensors and microelectronics have played a crucial role in making night vision cameras more affordable, with higher sensitivity, better image quality and reduced power consumption.


Blink cameras in particular have an 850nm infrared (IR) LED light to capture clear video in areas of complete darkness. When enabled, the camera is able to view and record in low light or non-lighted environments.


Support for Conservation Efforts

The Peep Show birdhouse can support wildlife and bird conservation efforts in several ways:

  1. Monitoring and Research: Peep Show birdhouses can provide valuable insights into bird behavior, nesting patterns, and interactions. Researchers can remotely access video feeds and gather data without disturbing the birds. This information helps in understanding population trends, breeding success, and the impact of environmental changes on bird species.

  2. Education and Awareness: With video feeds accessible to the public, these birdhouses can serve as educational tools. People can observe birds in their natural habitats, learn about their behaviors, and gain a deeper appreciation for local wildlife. Citizen scientists rejoice! We have a new learning tool.

  3. Early Warning Systems:  If equipped with environmental sensors, a video birdhouse can detect changes in temperature, humidity, and other factors that might indicate shifts in the ecosystem. Rapid changes may signal climate-related issues or habitat disturbances. Conservationists can use this information to respond quickly and implement strategies to mitigate potential threats to bird populations.


In summary, advances in technology, miniaturization, and increased demand have made wifi-enabled security cameras the perfect affordable companion for The Peep Show birdhouse, where Mother Nature’s wonders meet the boundless potential of modern technologies. Now you can explore, observe, and cherish our fine-feathered friends in ways Grandpa never dreamed possible.


DIY or LUDIFY (Let Us Do It For You)?

Could you make your own birdhouse with a camera? Yes, if you are willing to build a custom bird box and invest the time, energy, and cost of tools. But why go to the effort when we have done the hard work already? A DIY video birdhouse most likely won’t work with off-the-shelf birdhouses because a nesting box is a small space, requiring a camera lens with short focal length—not feet away from the subject, but inches. Not just any old camera will do. You’d need the right camera. We tested Blink in -60 degrees F (dry Alaska) and +105 degrees F (humid Sanibel Island, Florida) to validate the camera’s performance, and it passed with flying colors. We’ve done the work for you, so instead of

reinventing the box, try this three-step DIY process:

  1. Open your Peep Show.

  2. Add camera. (Takes 30 seconds to install.)

  3. Be amazed.


The Peep Show origin story:

Back in the 1960s, when Chuck Gray wanted to see inside his birdhouse, the solution was obvious to him—and it involved a sewer camera and drill. Mom came home to find Dad boring a hole through the kitchen cupboard to thread that little sewer camera through the wall and across the yard, then attaching it to his birdhouse. The Peep Show was born and we were hooked. Each summer evening our family would gather at the kitchen table to watch the hatchlings. 20 years later video camera technology has finally caught up to Dad’s great idea. We carry on the tradition of watching baby birds, but now from our phones and tablets. No sewer camera needed.



Jean Gray, M.S.
A freelance writer currently nesting in Merritt Island, Florida, Jean is a mother of four including three incredible 20- and 30-somethings who've flown the coup and a power-lifting teen—and wife to a rocket scientist. With a background in pre-med and a master’s in pharmacy, Jean is passionate about plant-based and holistic healthcare. Her love for all things sustainable drives her to champion eco-friendly businesses and remediation of the marine estuary literally in her backyard. Jean has a keen eye for innovation, eager to tell stories of socially responsible entrepreneurs who apply modern technologies to solve longstanding problems.
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