Birdhouse (with Webcam)




Introduction: Birdhouse (with Webcam)

Let's see.... Last year I was bored, had some wood laying around in the shed... What to do, what to do...

Birdhouse! Always fun to have some life in the garden during spring time, so the best thing is to put one up early. And in winter other birds may even use it as a place to sleep.

Choice of bird fell on the Great Tit! I like tits...

(ps. i borrowed the pics from somewhere on the net, credit goes to the photographers offcourse)

Step 1: Drawing It All Up

So. A birdhouse. First of all, making some sketches is always good start. I did some searching and most of the birdhouses i found where square/ straight boxes. Some others i found where way over the top, with little windows, welcome signs etc etc. Did some reading and found that pretty much the only thing that matters is bottom surface size and the size and height of the entrance.

For the specific birds ("Great Tit", "Koolmees" or Parus Major) i would like to invite to come and stay over, it's a bottom surface of approx 12cmx12cm. Entrance height should be approx 18cm and entrance itself 32mm. If you want to build one for other birds, do some searching and you'll find the preferred dimensions. Now to be honest, these birds will nest pretty much everywhere apparently.

I made some sketches in MS Word. A notepad and a pencil would probably do as well ;-)
As you can see, i made some wild plans, based on rough assumptions, like width and length of the wood i had. The actual birdhouse came out a little different, but it's pretty close.

Step 2: Off to the Shed...

Workbench... wood... pencil... ruler... saw... glue... hammer... nails... drill... some clamps... check!

First of all measure, measure again, draw it all up on the wood and get out the saw. I chose the angle of the roof to be 15 degrees. This was easiest for me, since my (powered) saw could also be set to saw at 15 degrees. When it was all sawed out, i sanded everything and did a trail fit with a clamp.

Step 3: Assembly

I then drilled out  the entrance (30mm). I used a small drill (same size as the nails i had) and pre-drilled the sides, 8 holes 3 on each long side and 2 in the bottom. Sanded everything down again and when everything was prepped, i applied glue on the sides. I then put everything together, clamped it down and let the glue set for an hour or so. I then hammered the (big-head) nails in. I like the way it looks, no need to hide the nails.

Step 4: The Roof

And now for the roof! This was the most tricky part i think. You need to be able to take off the roof to be able to clean it, but it should also not blow off during a storm. And you don't want the birds to be draughty either ;-) So it had to be a tight fit.

This is kind of hard to explain, but in the pic's you'll see the choices i made. Plan was to make 2 support brackets to hold the roof, which would slot in the top of the birdhouse. Cut at the X.
Crap... the wood snapped... Oh well, things will never go perfect ;-)
One attempt later i had two brackets.

I took measurements of the inside of the top of the birdhouse and drew it up on the workbench. Add the thickness of the front, back and sides of the birdhouse and add some overlap so it looks esthetically pleasing and keeps the rain out of the entrance a bit as well. I cut the the two roof parts' sides at an angle as well, to make them fit nicely together at the center.

Now i pre-drilled some holes in the two roof parts and stuck the nails in.
Put some woodglue on the 2 support brackets and at the point where the two halves will fit together. Yes, i put on way too much glue. But.. i used all the excess glue and smeared it on the sides and the top, making it more waterproof.

When the pieces where in place, i hammered the nails in the support brackets.

Step 5: Finishing Touch: Spraypaint.

When all was finished, i put a few layers of clearcoat on the entire birdhouse. Now i realised that the woodglue caused some stains. But since that is mostly on the roof, thats ok.

Finished it off with a small steel bracket (happened to have it laying around) on the back to hang it from.

Voila, finished!

The birds have been making good use of the new house!
This summer they've been flying in and out like crazy. Unfortunately, someone was really eager to know if there where young inside. Long story short, parents didn't come back, young birdies died.

So... to satisfy this need of information, i needed to come up with something this winter for next spring.

I noticed that since i cleaned out the old nest, the house was being used as a motel...

Step 6: Adding a (IR) Webcam

Now we need to be able to look into the birdhouse, without disturbing the birdies.
The idea is not new: add a webcam.

Now i suspect the birdhouse is going to be quite dark on the inside, even in the daytime, so we need to tweak the webcam a little bit.

The way i tweaked it is by removing the IR filter. This way the cam shows everything as if it was daytime! Ok, you loose some color, but that's not really important for this purpose.

How to do it

First disassemble the webcam as shown in the first pic. Now the webcam i used, an old Logitech webcam, is very easy to take apart. In fact, so easy i forgot to take pictures and tossed the rest of the cam in the trash...

Secondly, unscrew the focus element, it contains the small lens a pinhole 'filter' and the IR filter.

Third step is that we need to get to the IR Filter. Now to be able to pry the lens out, i made an incision in the side of the lens-element. After some attempts i was able to get the lens out. Underneath the lens was the Pinhole disc. This is to make sure not too much light hits the CCD sensor.

Unfortunately the IR filter was glued onto the pinhole-disc. And i killed it. So.. Oh well. Next!

If you want IR only (for night vision) you need to block all other light. A very simple way to do this is to use a fully developed piece of film-negative. Get the blackest part at the end of the negatives and cut out a little piece and fold it together. Insert this in the lens holder, put  the pinhole disc on top, pop the lens back in and your all set!

If you want the full spectrum, just leave it out! (colors can look pretty weird though)
In the end it turned out to be so dark in the birdhouse, i removed the pinhole disc as well.

Step 7: Adding Things Together

I fixed the webcam mount to the roof and then it was time to do a first test. See if the focus was set correctly etc.
You see the result, it sucks...

You're supposed to see an old cellphone on top of something else so simulate to height of a birds nest with birds in. You don't.
Damn it's really really dark in there! I thought it would be ok, due to light entering from the entrance, but apparently not so much.
I did not have any IR led's lying around but i did find some small micro-bulbs. (No, i don't know why i had them in the first place...)
Spec's are 6-12V 20-40mA. So it barely lights up connected to 5V usb power.

It's a whole lot better! Not great, but ok. Hey, it's a crappy old webcam to begin with.

Step 8: Final Assembly

Now we need to build the cam into the birdhouse.

Moisture and PCB's usually do not go together well. So... the easiest way to 'moisture-proof' it, would be drowning it in candlewax (paraffin). I removed the focusable part of the cam and put some black tape on. Lit some candles and waited. And waited.
And waited. Then i gently poored it onto the pcb. Messy! :-) Took a hobby-knife and removed the excess wax.

Took the saw out and made a piece of 3mm triplex fit between the two brackets of the roof.
Drilled 3 holes, one big enough to fit the camera, one for the micro light bulb and one for the microphone.

Tested the cam once more, it still worked ok! Now i fixed the rest in place and it was time to light some more candles and wait.
Dripped the backside of the PCB also completely full with wax and was done.

Built it all together and put it up on the side of the shed! In this location the birdhouse will get the morning sun and cool in the afternoon, which they like :-)

Step 9: Wait...

So now it's up there... and all i can do is wait and see!

I'll put up pics when there is news!

By coincedence i was looking out the window this evening and saw this little one sitting on the fence. Stayed sitting in the same place looking around for almost 5 minutes. (kind of unique for this kind of bird) looking around. Then it went for it :-)
I thought i saw it fly out while zooming in (was standing too far away at the time and used superzoom (16+ times zoom))
An hour later i decided to check if there was maybe nesting going on, but it seems it's being used as a hotel for now.
I know the pics are crappy, but hey it's not a high def cam in there :-)

Step 10: 2013 Video Update

Since i made it, they nest every year and to my great surprise, the webcam is still working!
This year we've got 6 youngsters opening their beaks :-)

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    9 Discussions


    4 years ago

    Don't use treated wood or paint on the inside.


    Reply 4 years ago

    Although i value your comment, care to elaborate on the treated wood part?


    Reply 4 years ago

    The 'don't use treated wood' deal is that they are treated with some nasty chemicals... Treated lumber gives off nasty gases (especially when heated, in the sun say) and it could be very bad especially for hatchlings.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Where to get a developed negative these days to build that IR/light filter! :(


    9 years ago on Introduction

    One little birdy came to inspect this morning. Popped in its head, had a few looks, sat on top, had another look around, hopped onto to roof of the shed and flew off. Well, let's hope he'll bring the wife for a second visit!


    9 years ago on Introduction

    That an awesome birdhouse. looking forward to the video!


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks! The next small project will be to install something that will provide the birdies with some nesting material. Hopefully they'll like it haha