In my previous article I explained how to install a wireless bird box camera, the next step shows how to live stream a bird camera to YouTube. It’s a little bit more difficult to stream your bird cam to the web but with the right free software it can be setup in 40 minutes or so.
I have a Gardenature Side View Birdbox with Wi-Fi Camera but this guide will also work for similar cameras that are placed at a bird feeder rather than in a nest box.
Step 1 – Setup a YouTube Account
If you don’t already have a YouTube account then you will need to set one up for streaming on. Simply go to YouTube and click “Sign-In” at the top. Then select “Create an Account”. Once you have a YouTube account you can then create a channel.
Step 2 – Setup a Streaming PC/Laptop/Mac
YouTube only allows streaming from mobile devices if you have over 1000 subscribers to your channel. Regardless, for the purpose of streaming a bird camera a PC or Mac is the best option. You don’t need a hugely powerful machine but it can be quite labour intensive to process and stream high quality videos. If you plan to stream 24/7 then you will need a dedicated machine that you only use for streaming with.
You will need to install OBS Studio on your chosen streaming machine. It can be installed on a Windows PC or a Mac, both versions are almost identical. OBS Studio is the software that will stream the video from your camera to YouTube.
Step 3 – Find Your Camera IP Address
In order to access your camera in OBS Studio you need to enter its IP address as a media source. I found this almost impossible to figure out. I later discovered that the camera stream URL uses a password that I had not setup. After a couple of hours of failing to figure out the correct IP address, I looked for some software to help.
ONVIF Device Manager was exactly what I was looking for. ONVIF scans your network for cameras and shows you their details. It is Windows only so if you are on a Mac, you will have to borrow a friends laptop.
I simply installed ONVIF, opened it, clicked the camera entry in the Device List (my camera was named NVT, for reasons I do not know!) and then clicked Live Video. It immediately showed me the correct IP address & RTSP URL for my camera. As I mentioned, the password in the URL is not one I setup and I would never have known the correct URL without using ONVIF. Hopefully this step has saved you several hours of frustration!
Step 4 – Copy The Camera RTSP Address to OBS
Now that I had the RTSP address, I kept a note of it and deleted ONVIF from my laptop.
Once back in OBS, it is super simple to add your stream. Under Sources, click the + button, enter a name (ie Bird Cam), untick Local File and finally enter your RTSP address in the Input box.
You can fiddle around with the other settings later, I didn’t need to change them from the defaults.
You should now see the video from your camera showing within OBS.
I also added the weather for my location to the stream, as an HTML overlay. I used Simple Weather Overlay to do this, there are easy instructions to follow on the Simple Weather Overlay page.
It takes a couple of hours to setup the weather overlay, mainly waiting for the API key to work. You add it in the same way, clicking the + button but instead of choosing Media Source, you chose the Browser option. It is entirely optional but quite nice to have.
Step 5 – Stream to YouTube
Now that you have the bird camera video footage showing on your screen, with the optional weather overlay, it is ready to stream to YouTube.
Firstly, you need to setup your Live Stream in YouTube. Click the Create button in YouTube Studio and then select Go Live. Set up the live stream like a regular YouTube video and copy the stream key. I set the video privacy to Unlisted, to begin with. Unlisted videos are not sent to subscribers and cannot be seen by the public. Unlisted is the best option for testing a new stream.
Back in OBS, we now look at the Control options down at the bottom right of the screen. Click the Settings button and then the Stream tab. In here select YouTube as the service and paste your stream key into the box.
The Manage Broadcast button can also be used to setup your stream, I found it easier to use YouTube itself.
The live stream you setup on YouTube is now linked to OBS. You can tweak the streaming settings later, they will differ based on your hardware, video quality and upload speeds.
Finally, click the Start Streaming button and your live stream will start. You can check it on your phone or another computer.
I originally tested out streaming using the Unlisted privacy option in YouTube and then once I was happy with it, I changed it to Public and started a new stream.
You might not get lots of viewers straight away but you can start/stop streaming whenever you want and you can also delete any test streams you uploaded.
Have fun with it & play with the settings until you get a reliable stream. I left mine running in Unlisted mode for 48 hours to check it was of sufficient quality. I did make some changes to the default OBS streaming settings but I don’t want this guide to be too technical and the ideal settings vary wildly from setup to setup.
If you do have any issues, get in touch and I’ll see if I can advise you further from my own experiences with streaming bird nest box cameras. Bear in mind that I do not work any of bird cam companies or streaming software suppliers and I only know the products I have used.
Despite being an IT professional, I did find it more irritating than it should have been to setup, hence this guide. It would be really cool if there was a network of bird nest box live streamers from around the world from various locations and climates. Maybe one day I will look into creating that!
In the meantime, feel free to subscribe to my Camp Cook Explore YouTube channel to watch my bird feeder & nest cam videos.
Happy bird watching!