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.
When I first started my Wild Birds Unlimited retail store twenty-six years ago, I was scared. My knowledge in the hobby of backyard bird feeding was very limited. I had two weeks training, a store full of feeders, bird food, birdbaths, books and other products for the hobbyists. But how was I going to answer the customers questions and solve their challenges when it came to attracting their favorite birds? How large would the learning curve be before I was comfortable and very secure in my answers to my customers? Little did I know that my teachers were going to be my customers.
You see, for twenty- six years, as I have been bringing people and nature together, my customers have been bringing me their stories of their backyard habitats. They have been educating me. They have been entertaining me. They have been challenging me. Like the guy who came in one Saturday morning and wanted to attract Blue Cardinals to his backyard.
After roaming this planet for 40 years I did know a few things. One there are no Blue Cardinals in Arlington, Virginia. Two, tailgate parties on Saturday mornings in the Fall start early. Three, Budweiser has a distinctive smell when someone has swigged down six of them for breakfast. So, I did not learn much from that guy.
But I learned from the customers that they have many different needs and desires when it comes to their backyards and birds. I learned that there are many favorite birds in my customers yards. That they will do anything to attract and feed them. That customers feed their birds at all times of the year. That there are year-round bird feeding hobbyists. That some customers feed only nine months out of the year.
When Spring comes, they put their feeders away. The belief is that the birds can fend for themselves. The reality of Spring is that the wild birds in our yards are very vulnerable because there is no “natural food” for them except insects. Were as most birds eat insects, that is not their only need. Most natural food goes to seed in the Fall. Then there is a bounty of food for the birds to choose from, including the restaurants (feeders) we have set up.
But in the Spring, plants that may provide food later are just beginning to grow. Add to that the stress of mating, building nests, and raising young birds and the birds are really hungry. This causes their need for food to increase. There are customers who want to just attract a limited variety of birds due to the size of their yards. There are customers who have a large habitat and invite any and all birds and animals to partake in their food pantry.
I have discovered there are three distinct parties (no not political) of squirrel hobbyists. The party that Hates them. The party that Loves them. The party that just kind of puts up with them. (Sort of sounds a little political, yes?) All of these customers will adjust their yards and habitats to meet their squirrel preferences.
Through my customers wisdom, we have addressed and solved many bird issues. How to deter large flocks of Grackles in the Spring and Fall. How not to attract Pigeons. How to keep Woodpeckers from pecking at your home. How to keep Squirrels from biting into those juicy garden tomatoes. How to attract the jewels of the Spring- hummingbirds. What migrating birds to look for during Spring and Fall migration. How to set up a water feature to maximize the most bird species in your yard.
All the while we learn to adjust and modify each specific need for our customers. So, when they are sitting on their deck or under the tree or in the sun room or by the kitchen counter, they are enjoying their hobby of backyard bird feeding to the maximum pleasure.
We have learned a lot from you. So, we say thank you. We say thank you for helping us keep our business, Wild Birds Unlimited, flying high for 26 years. We say thank you by inviting you to our big Anniversary Party November 18. We want you to come by so we can celebrate with you and thank you in person.
The early bird catches the worm. Or so they say. But we are not giving you worms. We will be giving away FREE $5.00 coupons for the Heidelberg Pastry shop, for the first 30 customers of the morning. Look for our coupon in next week’s edition of Arlington Now for other giveaways all day long. We are extremely grateful for your patronage to our business. We look forward too many more years helping to bring joy to you in your backyard. See you Saturday, November 18.