Oct 11
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Rascal the Raccoon with a White-breasted Nuthatch

Rascal the Raccoon with a White-breasted Nuthatch


Are you curious about how we create our Seed Cylinder Characters like Rascal the Raccoon, Hoot the Owl, Buttons the Snowman or Preston the Penguin?

First I look for ideas that have an “it’s so cute, I’ve got to have one” response. Then I go through a series of questions to determine if the idea can actually be turned into a bird food – what bird seed and food should be used, would it attract birds and could they eat it, and is the price something I believe customers are willing to pay.

We start with a picture that I find or draw, and then we go through multiple versions to achieve the overall look, cost and appeals to the birds. With Rascal the Raccoon, our newest character, it began with this picture. We made many adjustments along the way to cut costs and to achieve the cute factor.

Initial character or Rascal

Initial character or Rascal

There is a lot of hand decorating that goes into making our Seed Cylinder Characters. When you make a character out of bird seed, you lose a lot of detail and have limitations regarding which seed and food colors are natural. We don’t color our bird seed. We choose seeds, fruit, nuts, etc. whose natural color will give us not only the look we want, but that the birds will eat. This limits our options quite a bit.

Rascal Prototype

Rascal Prototype

Final Rascal the Raccoon Bird Seed Cylinder

Final Rascal the Raccoon Bird Seed Cylinder

We test the new food in various areas throughout North America to make sure the birds in different geographic regions like it. At home, I have a lot of fun with my son checking what body parts the birds have eaten while we’re at work and school.

Once the character is complete, we work on naming and packaging. We get photography and video and introduce the new character to our storeowners, who then order them to sell to you.

I love feeding the birds and coming up with new ways that enhance your enjoyment of your birds.

We hope you find Rascal as adorable as we do and that you and your birds will enjoy him or one of his friends (Hoot the Owl, Preston the Penguin, Buttons the Snowman). Customers tell us they love to give these characters as gifts, especially to the person who already has everything.

Apr 16
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Immature Female Rufous Hummingbird

Immature Female Rufous Hummingbird

WBU High Perch Hummingbird Feeder

WBU High Perch Hummingbird Feeder

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Did you ever wonder how a hummingbird will show up in your yard and check out the hummingbird feeder or hanging nectar plant that was there last year but hasn’t been put out yet this year? How do the birds know? It’s almost like they remember the nectar-rich food source. It is amazing that a bird would remember, especially one with the brain the size of a BB. Consider what a hummingbird does each year. They migrate great distances going south to winter in southern Mexico and northern Panama. They travel as far north as Alaska and Canada for breeding. Up to a 2,500 mile trip one way. An impressive feat performed by such a small-brained bird weighing about one penny. Bird banding records show many hummingbirds pass through the same yards, on the same day, year after year. Males return to stake claim on the same territory as the previous year. Females return to the same tree for nesting and sometimes re-use last year’s nest. One study found a female reused her nest for five years in a row. It is amazing how the smallest bird in the world can be so formidable with its memory and come back to feed from a nectar feeder it remembers from last year.

Hang your hummingbird feeders now and keep the nectar fresh. Those amazing jewels of nature are migrating back for the summer.

Jan 23
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With the New Year comes a new season of buying trade shows for the Purchasing Department at Wild Birds Unlimited (WBU) and our franchise store owners. Divide and conquer is our strategy. Staff and store owners collaborate to attend a variety of shows, review hundreds of products and merchandise lines. We look for what we think you are going to love and can enhance your enjoyment of your home, backyard and bird feeding hobby.

While show season is in full swing, here are some early trends we are seeing and might just be bringing to a Wild Birds Unlimited near you.

Neon colors look to have staying power for the season; however, the official Pantone color for 2013 is Emerald. It is a rich, bold color that conveys luxury, think emerald ring, as well as representing growth, re-birth and healing.

What we are most excited to see… owls are EVERYWHERE! This is part of an evolving trend which emerged several years ago with designers from clothing and jewelry to home interiors and furniture all incorporating birds. Could this be the year of the owl? Have you tried our Hoot the Owl bird seed cylinder? You could be trendy and didn’t even know it!

Another trend on our radar is miniature gardens. Like you, more and more people want to enjoy the outdoors and feel connected to nature. Many will be able to do this with a miniature garden that they can incorporate into their living space, deck or patio. See the photos above for ideas and inspiration.

We would love to hear your thoughts on these trends. What products would you like to see in your local Wild Birds Unlimited? Share your thoughts and ideas.

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Dec 12
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I started making bird wreaths back in the 90s for myself and for friends and family who loved birds and bird feeding and who were hard to buy for during the holidays. I have continued to make them for over 20 years and love this tradition each and every year. Since the invention of Bark Butter, my life has gotten easier as I no longer have to try to mix the ingredients to get just the right consistency. Over the years, I have found that after the first rush of visitors eats up all of the ornaments on the wreath- it makes a great and easy feeder for Bark Butter for the rest of the season (By the end of winter- the wreath is pretty much “done” and I feed Bark Butter on my other Bark Butter feeders).

Making wreaths is easy. You can get really creative and make them as an original, interesting gift – or just bang out a simple one for yourself.

The birds love them. It seems like they are attracted to the ‘naturalism’ of the grape wreath, and they devour it in a relatively short time in my backyard. It is a fun project for all ages and makes me feel very “Martha Stewart”-esque.

Ingredients
(You will have leftovers on some items)
14” Grape Wreath, about $5 at a hobby/craft store
Bag of cranberries
1 Tub of Bark Butter
3 pine cones
Wild Birds Unlimited Bird Seed Blend
13oz. dried fruit mix container
1 orange
Ever green clippings from a tree in your yard or woods
3 halves of a bagel. (
Tip cut the bagel the night before so they can sit out and dry, making it easier to spread the Bark Butter.)
Three small terra cotta pots- about 60 cents at a hobby/craft store
Florist wire, 24 gauge, in 18 – 24” length (Note: Do not buy paddle wire, you need this wire to be straight, which makes it easier to weave through the wreath.)

Step 1
Wind the florist wire around the base of the pine cones. This is so you can secure the pine cones to the wreath.

Step 2
Smear the pine cones with bark butter; use a fork and your hands to get the Bark Butter into the scales of the pine cones. Go crazy and squeeze cranberries in between the scales, then apply the Bark Butter.

Once the Bark Butter is on the cone, roll it like a meat ball or a chick pea ball for you vegetarians!

Step 3
Roll the pine cones in the bird seed blend. Press/squeeze the seed into the Bark Butter, to ensure the seed is mushed into the Bark Butter

Step 4
Secure the florist wire to the miniature terra cotta pots by running the florist wire through the bottom and over the side of the pot. Fill the pot with Bark Butter and top it with bird seed.

Step 5
Smear the bagel with Bark Butter and press bird seed into the Bark Butter and give the bagel a good squeeze.

The hardest part is securing the florist wire to the bagel. First string the florist wire with several cranberries, or pieces of dried fruit. Center the berries on the wire. Place a sprig of greenery over the center of the bagel; basically cover the hole in the bagel. Bend the wire on either side of the cranberries down 90 degrees, sticking them through the bagel, one on either side of the sprig of greenery.

Step 6
Follow the same steps as preparing the bagels to prepare the orange slices, except you do not smear the oranges with Bark Butter.

See the photo below for a variety of creative ways to prepare the foods. You are only limited by your imagination.

Step 7
Securing the food to the wreath

Start by selecting one of your foods and tying it to the wreath by weaving the wire ends through the wreath so they come out on the back side of the wreath then twist the wire tightly to the wreath so it is secure. Clip off the extra florist wire. Repeat for each food item.

Step 8
Accessorizing / Turning it into a gift
Add additional greenery to wreath in between the foods. To jazz up the wreath for a gift, add colorful bows and raffia.

I hope you have just as much fun as I do creating a beautiful wreath for the birds. Let us know how your project turns out and share some pictures with us on Facebook.

Here are some wreaths that I have made in past years that I especially have enjoyed giving as gifts and sharing with nature.

Dec 05
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Click the link below to watch a short video of birds interacting with Preston.
Wild Birds Unlimited Preston the Penguin Bird Food Cylinder

In time for the holidays, it’s Hoot the Owl, Preston the Penguin, and returning by popular demand, Buttons the Snowman. These adorable Bird Food Cylinders offer a convenient, fun way to attract birds.

The unique, whimsical shapes are a great way to connect kids of all ages with nature and to bring color and life into the backyard. Each is packed with seeds and fruits to attract a wide variety of birds. Seeds such as black oil sunflower, peanuts and safflower are high in fats and proteins that birds need to survive long, cold winter nights.

Imagine how fun it is to come home each day and see what parts have been eaten. And when you’re home to watch, you get the benefit of longer views as birds stay to eat instead of choosing a seed and flying elsewhere to eat it.

These seasonal bird food characters are inexpensive and make great gifts or starter feeders. Hurry in, though, for these adorable feeders! Hoot may be available year-round; however, Preston and Buttons are available for a limited time.

Stay tuned for next week’s topic, holiday wreaths for the birds.

Mar 15
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You could say I have been blue for almost 20 years!

When I purchased my home in the early 90’s, I did so in large part because of its great bird and wildlife viewing opportunities. My older suburban neighborhood is heavily wooded and features a small lake and numerous creeks. This great mix of habitats has brought me countless wildlife encounters, ranging from Bald Eagles to American Beavers and Spring Peepers to Flying Squirrels!

But my woodland setting has also denied me one of my favorite things in life – bluebirds.

At least, up until this winter!

Yes, the magic of planting a few native deciduous holly bushes (Ilex verticillata) combined with providing mealworms and Jim’s Birdacious® Bark Butter® Bits finally did the trick and brought them into my backyard!

The brilliant red berries of this “Winterberry Holly” seem to be irresistible to bluebirds and they certainly worked to initially attract them to my yard. But it only took a few days for the four bluebirds to pick the bushes clean. What kept them coming back day after day was their discovery of the mealworms and Bark Butter Bits that I had put out for them.

You can bet, as the drab and dreary days of late winter slowly passed, our lives were constantly brightened by these radiant bluebirds coming to the feeders just a few feet outside our family room window!

It would be hard to find anything as dazzling as a bluebird standing on a fence post in the early morning sun. Its brilliant blue plumage might even be said to rival the sky itself.

Too bad it’s just one big illusion!

It’s true! bluebirds aren’t really blue … they just look like they are!

Most bird colorations are due to pigments deposited in their feathers. A Northern Cardinal is red because of the red pigment called carotenoids. Crows are black because their feathers contain a dark pigment called melanin.

In contrast, bluebirds do not have a single molecule of blue pigment in any of their feathers. So where does that brilliant blue color come from?

The answer is that the color is not produced by a pigment, but by the structure of the feather. The top transparent layer of each bluebird feather is filled with miniscule pockets of air. When sunlight strikes these pockets, all of the other visible wavelengths of light are absorbed. Only blue escapes and is scattered in all directions.

So while the bluebird’s blue color may technically be an illusion…it is no longer an illusion to have them in my backyard and I am enjoying every single visit they make to my feeders!

After almost 20 years, their arrival has finally signaled the end to my case of the bluebird “blues!”

Now…if I can just get them to use the nest box down by the creek…

Dec 15
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I am trying not to panic this year!

The clock is ticking, Christmas is looming larger on the horizon, and I am trying hard to keep all of the hype and craziness from deterring my true joy for the Holiday Season.

It is such a special time of year; a time to gather together and share the blessings of life with those who are closest to us.

I am touched every year by the many customers who visit our stores because they want to share their passion for nature and birds with their family and friends. They understand that the gift of nature continues to bring joy to the recipient’s life long after the luster of other gifts has faded.

So with that in mind, and in an honest attempt to help avoid the dreaded last minute gift buying panic, I give you my three favorite bird feeding gift recommendations for this year:

How much fun is a Snowman Seed Cylinder! It adds a perfect holiday touch to any yard and is an entertaining gift for any nature lover on your list. I had the opportunity to test this product in my own yard during its development and I can tell you that the birds love it! Simply slide the Snowman Seed Cylinder onto our WBU Seed Cylinder Feeders.

And speaking of fun…hang a WBU Peanut Wreath Bird Feeder in your favorite tree and watch the peanut-loving birds, such as jays and woodpeckers go crazy for it. It, too, adds a holiday motif to your yard, while providing non-stop entertainment as the birds labor to remove the peanuts.

Last, but not least, I would recommend our most versatile feeder – the Dinner Bell. This feeder can be used with almost every type of bird food, so it has the greatest potential to draw in the widest variety of birds. From fruit to mealworms, seed blends to cylinders, this feeder will continue to entice birds for a long time after the holiday season has come and gone.

I truly hope these suggestions make it easier to share your joy for birds and nature with the ones you love. Here’s wishing you a less stressful and a more joyful Holiday Season!

Oct 12
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You may have heard me talk how Jim’s Birdacious® Bark Butter ™ attracts more birds than any other single bird food product. One blog post included some information on a winter finch irruption. Of course, I absolutely love the variety of birds and the kinds of feeding activity it has created in my yard. Well, now there is an even cooler product. And it’s not just my humble opinion.

Jim’s Birdacious® Bark Butter Bits® are totally awesome! “This is my new favorite food. If I was going to feed only one food in my yard, it would be Bark Butter Bits”, says my colleague Andrea, who is the New Product Development Manager.

We have had so much fun developing and testing this new bird food. We used the original Bark Butter recipe and created small nuggets. They are bite-sized morsels with a moist texture and consistency that the birds just can’t resist.

You can offer them alone in a feeder or mix them with other foods. I have offered Bark Butter Bits in my TreatTray® and Dinner Bell™ where the birds have loved them. I have had the regular suspects like Carolina Chickadees, White-breasted Nuthatches, Downy and Red-bellied Woodpeckers and Tufted Titmice. However, the really cool birds that are eating them are the American Goldfinches and Carolina Wrens.

Andrea has had Robins coming to eat the Bark Butter Bits. She said, “To me, that was pretty exciting! Not only did they come, they kept coming.” Beyond that, “All sorts of birds are lining up to eat it. Literally taking turns. I’d go broke if that’s all I’d feed.”

What bird food creates a little bit of heaven in your yard?

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