Haikubox

In mid-June our Haikubox was delivered after what seemed like an eternal product backorder. I ripped open the box like a little kid at Christmas!!!!

A Haikubox is an AI-enabled device that identifies bird species around your home by their songs and alerts in real time when it recognizes one. This technology has been available for a couple years via the Merlin App (for Apple iOS and Android), but the Haikubox runs 24/7 and is always listening.

The term Haiku, for those of you who weren’t paying attention in 5th grade English class is a 17 syllable poem, the first frame consisting of 5 units, the second 7 units and the 3rd having 5 more. I know this because I looked it up on Wikipedia. Why is this product called Haikubox? I have no idea!!!

Most experience birders, find birds by sound as often as by sight. But just like everything else . . . some people are better at it than others. Some are naturals, able to remember a bird song after hearing it only one (that would be Ingrid). Others (like me), have to re-learn all of the warbler songs each spring.

My super power, is range . . . I can hear the high pitched Brown Creeper, Cedar Waxwing and Blackburnian song . . . while many mere mortals can’t hear anything.

Merlin and Haikubox can detect these high range birds . . . and tell you what it is hearing . . . just like Shazam or SoundHound can recognize the 1972 hit “Brandy by Looking Glass” while one is standing in the checkout line.

And what really make the difference . . . it will alert you that an Evening Grosbeak is in the yard (by phone or Apple Watch) even if you are watching the ball game or folding laundry. Of course that means dropping everything and rushing out into the yard to find the bird . . . and the laundry never gets folded . . . but hey . . . it’s an Evening Grosbeak!!!!

And the Haikubox is that rare piece of digital equipment that increases your connection to the outside world, rather than diminishes it.

The Hardware

The Haikubox is a 2″ x 4″ x 6″ plastic box that connects to AC power and hangs on the outside of your house. It is supposed to be weather resistant, but we have ours hanging under the deck to keep direct rain and eventually snow off of it. You must also have it within reach of a strong Wi-Fi signal.

Configuration is done with the Haikubox App and I considered it quite easy . . . of course I’m a nerdy software developer . . . so take that endorsement with a grain of salt.

 

Once in operation, the Haikubox will begin to record bird songs, compare them to the thousands of recordings at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and then begin to report birds.

We’ve found Haikubox to be remarkably accurate. For instance on day one it told us it was detecting a Yellow-billed Cuckoo nearby. We both rolled our eyes as this is a bird we’ve never seen or heard in the yard. ¬†Our town is at the ¬†northern edge of the Cuckoo’s summer range. But we played the Haikubox recording and sure enough we could hear a Yellow-billed Cuckoo. We now hear it daily and with Haikubox prompting we’ve glimpsed it moving through the oak tree canopy in our yard.

In the last 60 days, our Haikubox has reported 122 species and several like the Cuckoo surprised us.

That’s not to say that Haikubox is perfect. Merlin confuses the very common Red-eyed Vireo with the rare Philadelphia Vireo . . . and it’s no wonder . . . they sound almost exactly alike. Haikubox makes the same mistake.

On windy days when our American Flag is flapping on the pole . . . Haikubox will tell us it heard a Ruffed Grouse drumming . . . perhaps, but my guess is it’s the flag.

The obvious errors seem to be decreasing with time . . . perhaps as the AI learns and adapts.

Of course isn’t that how Skynet became a problem in the Terminator movies?

Multiple Views

The Haikubox App (and browser version) has multiple views:

A top 10 list: which is fun to watch as the summer progresses. The Pine Warbler has dropped from 10th to 16th in the last few weeks.

An all-time list: Every bird detected since the box was configured. Ingrid and I live on a tidal saltwater river, so we get a wide variety of species. Currently, we’re at 122, with a new bird or two being added each day. We expect this number to continue to climb during migration season.

A alert view: A list of the last 100 bird vocalizations identified.

A recent list: Species identified in the last 2, 4, 6, 12 or 24 hours (user configurable).

So at this point, Ingrid and I both agree that we love our Haikubox. While it is is not a replacement for being out in the field birding, it keeps you aware of what is happening around the house when you can’t be outside. It also finds birds that are vocalizing outside of one’s hearing range and can ID a species that we are not familiar with.

The Haikubox backorder problem that I referenced has seemingly cleared and the product is readily available. A Haikubox and a 5 year membership is $399, not exactly cheap, but hey we need to spend it now or our kids will get it after we die!!!

 

1 comment

  1. By Amy Donner -

    Hello and thanks for sharing your Haikubox experience! Haiku poems often record carefully observed moments in nature, a lot like what your Haikubox is doing. Short, beautiful and evoking powerful imagery, that’s why we love Haiku poems. Enjoy your Yellow-billed Cuckoo (that’s one we didn’t know we had either!) and all the other joyful birds!
    -The Haikubox Team

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