Feb 12
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Join our Cheif Naturalist, John Schaust, as he prepares for the 17th annual Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC), scheduled for February 14 through February 17, 2014.

The annual four day event is a joint project between the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Bird Studies Canada and the National Audubon Society. Wild Birds Unlimited is a sponsor for the event.

Feb 05
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Flying Start Feeder

Flying Start Feeder

The annual four day event is a joint project between the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Bird Studies Canada and the National Audubon Society. Wild Birds Unlimited is a sponsor for the event.

Participating individuals, families, schools and organizations are encouraged to count birds at bird feeders and in backyards, local parks or other locations. Those tallies should then be reported online through the BirdSource web site at www.birdcount.org. Scientists use that data to analyze bird populations, migration patterns, habitat needs and identify birds at risk of becoming endangered. Participants should watch birds for at least 15 minutes at the location of their choice on one or more of the count days. They are to estimate the number of birds they see for each species they can identify. Participants select their location on a map, answer a few questions, enter their tallies, and then submit that data to share their sightings with others around the world.

“Whether an active bird watcher or a newcomer to the hobby, we encourage everyone to get involved and our stores are more than willing to help people get involved in the GBBC,” said Jim Carpenter, CEO and Founder of Wild Birds Unlimited. “The yearly event is important in helping the world learn about birds. Bird populations are dynamic and are constantly in flux. It is impossible for scientists to observe and document the movement of birds on their own. By participating, people play a vital role in the ongoing initiatives to learn more about birds.”

The data for the count will be powered by “eBird,” an online checklist program for the world’s approximate 10,000 bird species. Birders can view what others see on interactive maps, keep their own records, and have their tallies recorded.

For more information about the GBBC, call or stop by your local Wild Birds Unlimited store. To find your nearest location, visit https://maps.wbu.com.

About Wild Birds Unlimited
Wild Birds Unlimited is the original and largest franchise system of backyard bird feeding and nature specialty stores with more than 280 locations throughout the United States and Canada. Wild Birds Unlimited specializes in bringing people and nature together with bird feeding and nature products, expert advice and educational events. Visit our website and shop online at www.wbu.com. To learn how you can open your own Wild Birds Unlimited, visit www.wbufranchise.com.

Nov 15
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Paul Pickett, Vice President of Franchise Development and Judge Reinhold at the Franchise Leadership & Development Conference

Paul Pickett, Vice President of Franchise Development, and Judge Reinhold at the Franchise Leadership & Development Conference

Recently, Wild Birds Unlimited was awarded second place for Best Overall Performance during the exclusive 2013 Franchise Leadership & Development Conference held from October 9 – 11, 2013 in Atlanta, Georgia. The annual STAR awards (Speaking To And Responding) recognize the top companies in franchise recruitment nationwide.

The award recognizes Wild Birds Unlimited for its phenomenal performance in lead generation, recruitment and best practices in franchising. Franchise Update mystery shoppers posed as qualified prospects to judge how well, and how quickly, franchise sales and development staff replied to inquiries. The secret shoppers evaluated lead generation and recruiting practices for ease of access, response time, and follow-up. In addition, online experts evaluated franchisors’ recruitment websites and their use of social media. 152 companies were scored on telephone response to prospects, and 127 franchisors on recruitment websites and response to website prospects.

The Franchise Development Department looks for prospects that are passionate about nature and backyard bird feeding, energetic, friendly and committed to building a business and delivering the ultimate customer experience. Potential candidates are provided with a step-by-step ‘decision making process’ checklist to use as a guide when investigating the franchise opportunity. In addition, prospects are able to create a sample business plan, speak with several franchisees and visit different locations to decide if the company is a good fit.

“A strong company culture is the selling point of a great brand,” said Paul Pickett, Vice President of Franchise Development. “Our passion-driven culture of communication and support helps ensure that a satisfied and happy group of franchisees are meeting their goals using the resources and support we provide them with. Our franchisee’s commitment to their customers distinguishes them from other retailers because they are passionate about both the hobby of backyard bird feeding and their businesses. We are honored to accept such a prestigious award as it reinforces that our dedication and passion to our franchisees is highly praised and encouraged.”

For more information, please visit www.wbufranchise.com.

Oct 17
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Richard Crossley, Nancy and Jim Carpenter

Richard Crossley, Nancy and Jim Carpenter

Richard Crossley discussing raptors at the Eagle Creek Ornithology Center

Richard Crossley discussing raptors at the Eagle Creek Ornithology Center

CrossleyPresentation_WBU Indy

Last week Nancy and I, along with our staff at the Wild Birds Unlimited of Indianapolis store, were honored to co-host a fund raiser for the Birds of Prey program at the Eagle Creek Ornithology Center. For a donation, attendees enjoyed a raptor identification program and hike with the acclaimed birder Richard Crossley. Richard Crossley is an internationally acclaimed birder, award winning author and photographer. Attendees also received their choice of Crossley’s Guide to Raptors or Crossley’s Guide to Eastern Birds. We raised $1,500 for the program.

Richard also gave a presentation and had a book signing at the Wild Birds Unlimited store on 82nd. St. in Indianapolis. As you can see in the photos, everyone had a wonderful time.

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.

Oct 02
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2010-1

A few weeks ago it was my distinct honor to be one of the presenters and field trip leaders at the 2013 Midwest Birding Symposium in Lakeside, Ohio, on the south shore of Lake Erie.

For hundreds of bird watchers, this gathering is a highlight of their birding year as the weekend is chocked full of speakers, workshops, a Birder’s Marketplace and some of the best fall birding opportunities in the Midwest.

But don’t think that the only attendees where crusty old birders like me. On the contrary, the largest majority was made up of people fairly new to the world of birding, and that’s what made it so much fun!

Time after time I was moved by the joy and excitement of these novice birders.

Like Christy, who while on an early morning bird hike literally jumped for joy when she found and indentified a male American Redstart all by herself. It was a outpouring of pure delight and discovery.

Or the mother from Maryland and the daughter from Colorado who I sat with at lunch. They had each driven from their respective states to meet up at the symposium. They wanted to see if this birding thing was really all that it is cracked up to be. We shared an hour of non-stop conversation about birds, birding apps and birding destinations around the country. They were obviously already hooked. Birding – what a cool way for them to stay close despite the large geographic distance between them.

And then there was the person just three weeks out from hip replacement surgery. With the encouragement of her doctor, and the support of her posse of friends, she had made the last minute decision to attend the symposium. Obviously limited in her endurance and movement, most of her efforts were spent attending workshops and presentations. At least that was until her friends took her and her wheel chair to nearby marsh with a boardwalk trail. The look on her face after a glorious morning of birding was not to be missed; and just what the doctor ordered!

Birds are cool and so are birdwatchers; they are both fun to be around and watch. I am thankful for the joy they bring to my world.

My special thanks to the folks at the Midwest Birding Symposium for letting me be a part of the fun again this year.

Jul 18
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Wild Birds Unlimited Eliminator Squirrel Proof Bird Feeder

Wild Birds Unlimited Eliminator Squirrel Proof Bird Feeder

The other night, I was sitting on our screened porch with a group of friends, catching up and, of course, watching the birds at the feeders outside. One of my friends asked me about a specific feeder that happens to be exclusive to the Wild Birds Unlimited franchise system and how we came up with the design. I told him that it had to be good for the birds, good for our retail customers and good for our franchisees. His reply was “Wow…that is really complicated…Wild Birds Unlimited really has three different sets of customers to keep happy! How do you make that happen?”

It struck me that while most franchise systems don’t have the complication of three customer bases, we all have at least two different and distinct customer bases: our franchisees and the end users of the franchisees’ services… the end consumer. My answer to my friends question was “it really isn’t all that complicated when you make the commitment to be true to the brand and stick to that commitment in all of your decisions”.

Now, just because it isn’t “complicated” doesn’t mean that it isn’t “complex”.

In my opinion, one of the roles of a franchisor is to formulate and deliver easy to implement best practices that benefit the brand. This means, taking my bird feeder conversation as an example, that this new product had to be designed include features and benefits that appealed to all three of our ultimate customer bases. It had to “work for the birds” which meant that the perch sizes, seed flow and squirrel resistant features (in this case) had to be tested and perfected before the release, it had to ”work for the retail customer”, which meant that that it have an appropriate price-point, be visually attractive, fit a specific customer-need and it had to “work for our franchisees”, which meant that it had to have an appropriate margin, be easy to display, fit into our merchandise mix strategy and come with all of the appropriate marketing collateral and staff training materials. It sounds, and is, complex…but it’s not complicated.

The way that we accomplish this goal of serving all of our customers at the same time here at Wild Birds Unlimited is to constantly focus on that umbrella customer-the Wild Birds Unlimited brand- using our Mission of “We Bring People and Nature Together…and we do it with Excellence” as a filter for making all of our decisions. That focus on the brand and all of the customers that the brand serves is the only way to ensure that your brand is sustainable, always growing and exceeding the expectations of all of its customers.

Jul 12
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Ft. Harrison, Indiana Birding Trip during the Wild Birds Unlimited Enterprise Leadership Conference

Ft. Harrison, Indiana Birding Trip during the Wild Birds Unlimited Enterprise Leadership Conference

Wild Birds Unlimited storeowners gathered in Indianapolis this year at the end of June for the annual Enterprise Leadership Conference. They came to refresh and reenergize themselves and learn about new innovations for their staff and stores. But before they got down to some serious work, some of them arrived a day early to play.

The day before the conference 50 WBU storeowners joined us for a relaxing morning of connecting with nature by bird watching at Fort Harrison State Park. Leading the trip with me was my coworker and fellow blogger, John Schaust, and a local birder and buddy of ours, Rob Ripma of NuttyBirder.com.

We saw a lot of birds and, as you can imagine with it being early-summer, a number of them were juvenile birds chasing their parents begging for food.

One of the biggest highlights was the Cerulean Warbler. Everyone got to see it! Which is an amazing feat for 50 people birding at the same time.

The Cerulean is a beautiful, sky-blue and white warbler that breeds in the woods of the Eastern US and Canada. It is of special conservation concern due to its overall small population size and is on the watch list to see if it may need to be placed on the endangered species list.

Other highlights included a Ruby-throated Hummingbird mom sitting on her nest as well as a Baltimore Oriole nest where mom and dad were bringing food to the nestlings.

Everyone had a fabulous time connecting with nature. Have you seen any fun bird activity lately?

May 22
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Pine Warbler

Pine Warbler

Townsend's Warbler

Townsend’s Warbler

He must have had a strong premonition!

A few weeks ago (May 3) my colleague Brian posted a blog entitled, “Competitive Birding for Conservation.” He wrote about Team WBU’s upcoming Birdathon with high hopes and expectations and he questioned if we could surpass a total of 150 birds.

The reality is that we tallied exactly 150 birds! He must be psychic!

The Birdathon was a tough 24 hours of hardcore birding filled with exciting discoveries of uncommon birds and heartbreaking misses of some common ones.

But one of the constants throughout the day was the quest to count as many of the 40 potential species of warblers that can be found in Indiana during spring migration. While some warblers nest in the state, most of them are just passing through. So, you always revere every sighting of these colorful songsters.

We ended the day with 23 warbler species…not as many as we had hoped to find; but, enough to make for some exciting birding.

Warblers are truly the door prize for bird watchers! And while these insect-eating birds are not typically attracted to seed feeders, they can be attracted to your back yard with suet products, mealworms and/or water.

It is truly a magical moment when you glance outside and see your first Townsend’s warbler visiting the suet feeder or a Pine Warbler munching down on mealworms. And I don’t think I have to be psychic to assume that Brian would agree that attracting them to feeders is a whole lot easier than spending 24 hours chasing them all around the state!

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May 03
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John Schaust, Chief Naturalist Wild Birds Unlimited

John Schaust, Chief Naturalist Wild Birds Unlimited

Brian Cunningham, Product and Hobby Education Manager Wild Birds Unlimited

Brian Cunningham, Product and Hobby Education Manager Wild Birds Unlimited

Rob Ripma, Wild Birds Unlimited Sales Associate, Nuttybirder.com Author and Blogger

Rob Ripma, Wild Birds Unlimited Sales Associate, Nuttybirder.com Author and Blogger

119 species in 2011

143 species in 2012

300 species in 2013?

Team Wild Birds Unlimited is participating again in our local Audubon’s Birdathon. We found 119 species in a single day two years ago, 143 last year and hope to find close to 175 this year.

Recently, a Birdathon team from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology made North American history with 294 species recorded in a single day on April 25, 2013 in Texas. With around 400 bird species found in Indiana in a calendar year, Team Wild Birds Unlimited could only dream of that kind of number.

But, it’s not just about the number of species seen for a Birdathon team. It’s about bird conservation.

Birding teams do these Big Day Birdathon events to raise funds for much-needed bird conservation and education. Funds pledged this year for our Wild Birds Unlimited Team go toward bird habitat protection, research and education; particularly for the beautiful and vulnerable Cerulean Warbler. Check out the projects or make a pledge by clicking the links.

Will we surpass 150 species this year? 175? Follow our Big Day Birdathon progress on May 16 via the Wild Birds Unlimited, Inc. Facebook page. We’ll start the day at 3:00 a.m. EDT and will post updates throughout the day.

Make a financial pledge, wish us luck and follow our progress!

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