Secret Surveillance Garden Birdhouse – Notes and Plans from my Build

This Friday I’m doing a workshop for Craftsman in Chicago, for their first annual blogger summit. The different presenters each introduced themselves by building a birdhouse project that represents them.

I started the project by drawing a set of blueprints, knowing that I wanted something with multiple compartments and a remote-access rear hatch. I adjusted things on paper a few times, and then built a small model of the birdhouse to make sure the pieces would work together, and the hinge apparatus would function correctly. Glad I did this first because there were a couple key modifications from it.

Once the model was built, the actual birdhouse came together fairly easily, with just a few small changes. I really like the way the tiny bird apartment conceals the high-tech inner workings.

I painted the exterior green and stained the roof red. I’ve been wanting to use the dead, dried tree from my yard for a project (or as fuel in my pizza oven) so did some resawing, cutting it into rough 1/2″ planks. The addition added a fantastic rustic charm that would make this birdhouse look great in any garden.

On the inside, I used an RC servo to control the rear door, with a second servo that pans the webcam side-to-side. A high-gain wifi antenna allows the setup to be placed a distance away from the house but still have access to internet signals, in case you want to stream the video feed, or just check up on facebook while gardening.

There are a number of tweaks I’d still like to do, including transitioning the entire thing to Arduino, but for now, I’m very happy with how the birdhouse came out.

Check it and the others out on Craftsman’s Facebook page.

The funny part is that the birdhouse is really just a tiny "apartment" in the front corner of this piece, kept separate and secure from the electronics inside.

I was originally going to put a helicopter on the inside, but soon ran out of space.
The cardboard model – even mitred the roof top.

Pieces of the dead tree from my yard. They were sawn into 1/2" planks.

8 thoughts on “Secret Surveillance Garden Birdhouse – Notes and Plans from my Build”

  1. Looks great! That’s one thing I was most curious about, whether you were going to automate some or all of its functions with an Arduino.

    I was tempted to do something similar with my own birdhouse, using a motion-triggered IR cam to spy on any birds that might be nesting inside, but time constraints forces me to abandon the idea.

    Anyhow, I also love the look of the resawn tree siding!

    1. Thanks Stuey–I do plan on continuing to noodle with this, there are a number of small tweaks, and a few big ones (Arduino internet access/control being the biggest). 

      I like your thoughts on motion triggering it–would love to see you do that. Time-wise, totally understand where you’re coming from. This wasn’t the fastest.

      Nice job on your birdhouse too. See you in Chicago.

  2. You could also use GotoCamera’s video monitoring/surveillance app for the iPhone, which helps you to monitor your home, your family, your pets, and your business. This FREE app gives you 1-click access to your cameras, archives, and settings. All that you need to get started is a GotoCamera Account (also free) to use this app – if you do not have a GotoCamera account, you can create one at

    Simple steps to get started:

    1) Set up your webcam at your home or office or anyplace else. (All you need is a simple, off-the-shelf webcam). Once your webcam is connected to your computer, make sure it’s focused in the direction of the object/room you wish to monitor.

    2) Once done, you can now access snapshots of images, videos from your iPhone from anywhere, anytime! GotoCamera not only stores all your recordings, but also gives you the option of enabling motion detection settings.

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