Flying Colors: Do They Know?

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Flying Colors is a sponsored column on the hobby of backyard bird feeding written by Michael Zuiker, owner of the Wild Birds Unlimited store at the Lee Harrison Shopping Center. Visit the store at 2437 N. Harrison Street or call 703-241-3988.

There is a very big change happening in Arlington. It has been going on now for some time. No, I am not talking about the transformation of the Metro corridor, which has been happening for the past 25 years. Where the sleepy two, lane road of Wilson Boulevard is now surrounded by concrete giants and teeming with thousands of human beings. Human beings, living in village like communities, filled with shops, restaurants and entertainment, enjoying their lives.

The change that I am seeing, from my vantage point of my Wild Birds Unlimited retail store in north Arlington, is the migration of urban families to more suburban locations and lifestyles. Yes, it is only three miles away, but it could be a totally different planet. By moving out of the high rise apartments, condominiums and densely packed townhouses to the breath of fresh air single family home with a yard, a new world awaits.

A world of Nature. Nature in the form of open space. OK, we are not talking about Wyoming wide open spaces where the deer and the antelope play! Although deer do come with the real estate taxes. But there is flora; flowers, shrubs, huge trees for shade and life in the form of birds. There are easily thirty to forty different species of birds, who can filter through your yard during the four seasons. To sing, to build nests, to create families and to entertain with their forms, colors and antics.

So, as I watch the reduction of my long time (26 years in the Lee Harrison Shopping Center) customer base to the new young families, I ask myself — Do They Know?

Do they know the incredible peace and joy in partaking of the hobby of feeding birds in their new back and front yards? Do they know of the incredible bonding that happens when they engage their young children about the wonders of Nature? Do they know of the incredible color and diversity of birds that live in the tree canopies and in the shrubs and forage for seed, fruit, nuts and insects that call their home, home?

The built up Urban environment of the Metro corridor is an exciting, fun place to live, with everything anyone could want right at your doorstep. It is void of only one thing — the natural world. And sure, you could walk out your front door into a rainstorm, without an umbrella and experience nature. But the natural world does not live in concrete, asphalt, glass and steel. Nature lives in the natural world.

For the past five years, or maybe more, we have seen a new wave of young family’s peer into our store and wonder — what is this place? Many ask if we have any “wild birds,” referring to pet birds, in our store. We tell them that our store is dedicated to the hobby of “backyard bird feeding.” No caged birds for us.

What is striking to us, is that the young children are the ones who are always curious, excited and knowledgeable (thank you grade school natural science teachers) about the prospect of starting the hobby. Without statistical scientific data to prove it, I am sure most of the young adults have had a parent, aunt or uncle actively involved in the hobby (52 million Americans are currently engaged in the hobby of back yard bird feeding).

So, I am saddened to see so many of our long-time customers move to a different phase of their lives. For without them, we would never have survived. Their friendship and love for the hobby of feeding wild birds in their yards, has been the best part of owning my store. Now a new migration of humans are settling in. It is up to the cardinals, chickadees, nuthatches, woodpeckers, robins, hummingbirds and us to share our knowledge to these humans on the Joy of Nature in their new backyards, with the hobby of back yard bird feeding. We are ready.

So are the birds!