YouTube | Hans Forsberg

Clever Guy Builds Bird Feeder That Wild Magpies 'Pay' With Bottle Caps To Use

Amy Pilkington 6 Nov 2020

Hans Forsberg's yard is also home to a flock of wild magpies and for a long time, they were just a nuisance that kept trying to break into his outdoor lanterns.

But where many people might attempt to get rid of the nuisance, Hans wondered if he could both save his lanterns and put the birds' natural collection instincts to use.

Coincidentally, Hans' day job involves robotics and artificial intelligence, so the idea of hacking together a highly sophisticated bird vending machine sounded fun.

He used a Raspberry Pi as the base for the project, which is an inexpensive computer prized by hackers.

There's a whole lot more to the technical side than I can get into here, but if you're into learning the very nerdy bits, you can check out his explanation here.

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The basic premise is pretty simple: the birds drop a bottle cap into the hole, a metal detector takes note, and food drops from a chute.

YouTube | Hans Forsberg

Of course, a whole lot of programming, engineering, and training of the birds is required to make it all work.

Obviously, there are only so many bottle caps strewn around the neighborhood, but Hans plans to expand the items that can be used to pay.

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His current project involves finding a way to let the birds pay with the many bruised and rotting apples that end up strewn in the yard every autumn.

He's toying with other widely available bit of trash, like cigarette butts, to teach the magpies to collect. Such items are harder to verify automatically, unlike the bottle caps, which can trigger the metal detector.

It's a pretty awesome, nerdy project and once again proves how smart birds actually can be.

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