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Best Birding Retailer Awards - Birding Retailers to be Recognized

Birding Business magazine and Gold Crest Distributing are looking for a few good retailers – especially those engaged in the bird watching/ bird feeding business.

The two organizations recently announced plans to scour the country looking for the best birding specialty stores and wild bird departments. Candidates will be nominated both by vendors and via a search committee.

“This industry needs to recognize excellence in retailing and advancement of the hobby of birding,” says Grant Toellner, Vice-President of Gold Crest. “There are scores of stores out there doing a remarkable job of educating customers, merchandising, marketing, and impacting their communities with a wild bird emphasis.  We want to see the front-line leaders recognized for their contributions.”

Initial categories for the Best Birding Retailers awards will be:

Best Store with a Birding Emphasis  - (Over 3-years in operation)

Best Store with a Birding Emphasis - (Less than 3-years in operation)

Best Birding Department  - (in a multi-Line store) 

Best Birding Department - (as a funding source for a non-profit organization)

A candidate Search Committee will present their findings and recommendations in April, 2015 to the Award Selection Team. The AST, made up of birding products industry leaders, will further evaluate the candidates. Criteria considered include sales volume (total and per/sq. ft.), growth trends, product lines, merchandising, advertising, customer communication (websites, social media), and overall operations outreach to the community.

Winning Retailers and runners-up will be announced at the 2015 Wild Bird Expo, October 6-8, in Mexico, MO. Articles about the winners will be published in Birding Business.

Further information will be published in upcoming issues of Birding Business. Nomination forms are available by emailing Gold Crest at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . For additional information contact Grant Toellner, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or BB Publisher Ray David, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .


MADISON, Wis. —Over the past two decades, resident communities of birds visiting eastern North America’s backyard bird feeders in winter have quietly been remade, most likely as a result of a warming climate.  The journal Global Change Biology says University of Wisconsin-Madison wildlife biologists Benjamin Zuckerberg and Karine Princé have documented that once rare wintering bird species are becoming commonplace in the American Northeast.

Data gathered over twenty years on 38 species through Cornell University Lab of Ornithology’s Project Feederwatch shows that birds typically found in more southerly regions are gradually pushing north, restructuring the communities of birds that spend their winters in northern latitudes.

An estimated 53 million Americans maintain feeding stations near their homes, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, suggesting that increases in some species may be attributable to more readily available sources of food. However, that figure has remained constant, reflecting only a slight decline since 1991, indicating that environmental factors beyond the availability of food sources are at play. The changes in the mix of overwintering bird species is occurring against a backdrop of more variable and intense precipitation events, and a shorter snow season, overall. Climate models predict even warmer temperatures occurring over the next 100 years, with seasonal climate effects being the most pronounced in northern regions of the world.

Birds Behaving Electronically

Each year Americans spend as much as $5 billion to provide supplemental food to wild birds. Yet we know surprisingly little about feeder use by those birds, including why individual birds differ in how often they visit a particular feeder.  

A new study is aiming to uncover some of these feeding secrets with a well-used approach that’s been tracking inventory for decades:  Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology.

Ornithologist Dr. Jim Rivers of Oregon State University, along with Dr. Dan Ardia of Franklin and Marshall College, are using RFID technology to explain how individual differences in behavior and physiology are linked to use of feeders by wild birds. To do this, the researchers capture birds when visiting feeders and affix small, lightweight tags that bear unique alpha-numeric codes, each of which acts like a ‘digital social security card’ for the individual bird that wears it.

At the same time, they will take measurements from captured birds to assess their health, test their response to stressful conditions, and take measurements that help describe each individual bird’s ‘personality.’ The birds are then released and quickly resume their normal activities, which includes return visits to feeders filled with seed.

But there’s a catch:  the feeders are built with tag readers that can detect and record the unique code carried by each tagged bird. Because the tag-reading process is automated, large amounts of data on feeder use can be obtained over the months-long winter season, allowing the researchers to gain insights into how often birds feed, their seed preferences, how bird health and survival is linked to feeder use, how feeder use changes with environmental conditions such as air temperature and the presence of winter storms. Given how little is known about how birds use feeders, this study should markedly enhance our understanding of this topic for many common species, while providing valuable information that is currently unavailable to scientists, the public, and the industry.


In a study published in the journal PLOS ONE, University of Wisconsin-Madison and Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) scientists examined whether corn and perennial grassland fields in southern Wisconsin could provide both biomass for bioenergy production and bountiful bird habitat.

The research team found that where there are grasslands, there are birds. Grass-and-wildflower-dominated fields supported more than three times as many bird species as cornfields, including 10 imperiled species found only in the grasslands. These grassland fields can also produce ample biomass for renewable fuels.

The team selected 30 different grassland sites – three of which are already used for small-scale bioenergy production – and 11 cornfields in southern Wisconsin. Over the course of two years, the researchers characterized the vegetation growing in each field, calculated and estimated the biomass yields possible, and counted the total numbers of birds and bird species observed in them.  According to Blank and Turner, the study is one of the first to examine grassland fields already producing biomass for biofuels and is one of only a few analyses to examine the impact of bioenergy production on birds.

Incentives for a conservation-minded approach could be used to help offset potential differences in profit, the researchers suggest. They also add that the biomass yields calculated in the study may represent the low end of what is possible, given that one of the two study years, 2012, occurred during a significant drought period in the state.

Off Topic: Keystone Pipeline

Unarguably a great many within the birding community are conservationists and environmentalists, including me. The proposed Keystone Pipeline, which will bring Canadian oil to Texas refineries, has become a battle ground of sorts for us because of the possible disruption to the environment and the inevitable accidental leakage. An unfortunate component in the argument, though, is misinformation. Not knowing all the facts has a tendency to create division, pitting one side against another.

Like most, I hate to see wanton destruction of the natural beauty of the landscape, but at the same time, if we are to effectively manage the unavoidable and unstoppable growth of our population we will ultimately have to accommodate changes that go against the grain.

When the issue of the pipeline came up a couple of years ago my first reaction was negative, because it would pass through environmentally sensitive areas which I, and many others, feel should be left untouched.

But being active in a couple of social groups where I live – completely disconnected from conservation concerns – keeps me in touch with a large number of people with a variety of interests, so if I need detail on a subject about which I know little there is always someone around who can fill in the blanks for me.

One of those people, a good friend, retired after a 40-year career as an engineer in the pipeline industry.  He was responsible for pumping stations and pipeline installation for a company with 80,000 miles of line in its portfolio, and will be one of the builders of the Keystone if it ever gets approved.

I was surprised to learn that one of that company’s protocols in pipeline building is to ensure that environmental issues be considered along with corporate and government requirements before a plan is drawn up, and alternate routing must be part of the study.  Pursuit of profit, important as it is, must be in harmony with all the other issues before a final proposal can be offered.

The world-wide importance of oil adds extra weight to the mix when deciding the viability of this project, because past and future issues weigh into the plan as well.  In this case the situation in the Middle East is of prime importance.  Russia, a major oil exporter, is flexing its muscles in neighboring countries and has already made veiled threats of getting more deeply involved with OPEC production.  In addition they’ve recently signed a long-term natural gas deal with China in retaliation to sanctions imposed by the NATO Alliance.

Ensuring future supply for our own needs independent of other countries also needs to be addressed.  Increasing the world supply will facilitate lower prices for years to come, buoyed by a reduction in our need for imported oil.

Disruption of environmentally sensitive areas is unavoidable, but can be mitigated to some degree through concessions by the pipeline builders.  Transmission of oil by pipeline is far more cost effective than rail or road, and poses much less danger of environmental contamination than either overland or by sea.

Another consideration is employment.  Aside from a transient flurry of jobs during the construction process, at least one permanent, full-time, well-paying job is created for every few miles of finished pipeline.

Not many of us can be happy with the steady roll-out of endless suburbs from every population nucleus, but the world demands progress.  We’re already past the point where thoughtful land-use planning could have avoided suburban congestion, but some means of delivering oil from point A to point B will happen, and if it is properly planned before a less attractive alternative takes over we’ll all be the better for it.

This piece, admittedly, has a pro-pipeline emphasis, but the conversation I’ve related here is the only pro-side I’ve yet heard and deserves to be known.  Ray David

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