Pigeons have a long memory, jackdaws are quick learners

A project log for Vending Machine for Birds

Simple, inexpensive bird feeder that dispenses peanuts in exchange for dropping stuff in a hole. A vending machine for clever birds.

stephen-chaseyStephen Chasey 05/27/2024 at 20:260 Comments

I cleaned up the software a bit and added a "calibration mode" that lets you dial in sensor sensitivity without dispensing peanuts and ran it outside for a few days. You can get the latest version (1.2 at the moment) of the software and PCB here:

After a couple further tweaks it seems to be working as intended. Here's what it looks like now.

The first day was to work out the kinks - and there were sensor adjustments, platform levelling and a loose jumper to correct before turning it on and walking away.

On the second day I set timed dispense to dispense a peanut every hour between 06:00 to 18:00 and put some caps and butts on the platform near the deposit chute with some peanuts mixed in.

The pigons still remember getting shelled peanuts from this and occasionally land and start shuffling things around until they sink a few things. The jackdaws were watching, and swooped in to grab the peanuts that were dispensed.

VMFB-MC 1_06-06-05.mp4

Then the jackdaws started studying the machine, giving it a good look-over and really inspecting it.

VMFB-MC 1_10-13-49.mp4

Then they started tossing caps and butts around like they saw the pigons do. They seemed to understand a connection between tossing caps and butts around and getting peanuts. By the third day I saw this behavior from the jackdaws pretty consistently.

VMFB-MC 1_08-36-57.mp4

VMFB-MC 1_09-26-26.mp4

Except for when the neighbor's cats come around.

Here's what the monitoring and control interface looks like. When I took this there had been 25 deposit events, the timed dispense (enabled/green) had triggered 5 times, and I had manually dispensed 4 times. 34 dispense events in all. The buttons on the lower right toggle PBKA (lightbulb), timed dispense (alarm), manual snapshot (camera), manual dispense (down arrow) and calibration mode (magnifying glass).

I will have to pause this again in a couple of weeks to visit the US for a month - a bit too long to leave this running unattended at this point. Will try to make some progress in the meantime.