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This month’s bird

The Hairy Woodpecker


Birding Business - Industry News


This Renovation’s For the Birds
As we learn more about how construction of sky scrapers is affecting birds and other wildlife, one already-constructed building is doing something to be friendlier. The Javits Center in New York City is undergoing a renovation that includes transforming the roof into a  6.75-acre greenspace with beehives, bat sanctuaries, and nesting spots for 11 bird species, two of which have fledged chicks this year. In addition, the Center has started using low-reflectance glass which has reduced bird strikes 93%. The bird survey was conducted by the Audubon Society and Fordham University.

Songbird Essentials Expands with Acquisition of Premier Backyard Brands (Schrodt Designs)
Songbird Essentials will continue to offer all top selling Schrodt items including their popular Hummingbird Feeders, Seed Feeders, Butterfly Houses, Bat Bungalows and more.  Over time Songbird Essentials will begin to cultivate new styles. When asked his thoughts on expanding the Songbird Essentials brand to include the products from Premier Backyard Brands, Toellner commented, “We are happy to add this popular line under the Songbird Essentials umbrella.  Our goal is to continue to offer the products that our customers have come to rely on, but also by expanding our brand, we can continue to create new jobs in the community.”

A Bird House is not  Always a Bird House
Birding groups are joining forces to educate construction companies about the danger of using PVC pipe as markers. 100 Conservation groups endorsed a letter to federal officials about the problems posed by the pipes, which birds see as a nesting spot, but which are difficult to escape, and lead to death by starvation. In some states, complaints have led to the use of such pipes being made illegal, and allowing citizens to simply pull the pipes out of the ground of they’re on public land.

Report Outlines Potential Changes to England Wildlife
Warmth-loving species in the south of England will thrive while species in the higher elevations will suffer as the global climate changes, becoming warmer, according to a newly-released study in the UK. The report is a collaboration between Natural England (a government agency which studies country wildlife), the University of York, British Trust for Ornithology and the Centre for Ecology, and is based on the prediction of a 2º C rise in temperature in the next sixty years. The report, available online here (http://publications.naturalengland.org.uk/publication/4674414199177216) seeks to use citizen reports to track species of special concern.

Advances in New Bird Flu Vaccine
The USDA has announced that a new vaccine is 100% effective in protecting domestic chickens from the bird flu virus, and will begin testing to see if it works with turkeys as well. Speaking to the House Agriculture Committee, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said that they plan to license the vaccine as quickly as possible, along with stockpiling it for future outbreaks. The latest strain of the bird flu virus, H5N2, has led to the death of 48 million birds in 15 states this spring as officials struggled to control its spread.

Atlanta Cools Down
Vendors Claim July Show Not That Hot
It’s never been the intent of AmericasMart Atlanta to outdo their big January International Gift and Home Furnishings Market in July. They know better.  Summer weddings, reunions, and outdoor projects affect buyer’s priorities.  And this year the calendar was no friend to the scheduler as the show began on July 7 –just days after the big summer holiday and a popular vacation week.

Still, the show must go on and on it did with mixed reviews. Make no mistake, AmericasMart Atlanta, even in July, is one of the largest gift shows in the world and it is still worth a visit.

“We are reporting strong order writing and steady traffic across the Market,” reports Chelsea Peabody, Strategic relations and Media Relations Manager, AmericasMart.  “In the permanent Gardens collection, we had 11 new and expanded showrooms. Exciting Market additions this summer included the new Portman Blvd Summer Patio which featured outdoor exhibitors, food-trucks, and music.”  The Gardens Friday night Summerfest featured HGTV personality Jamie Durie.

But did the summer perks translate into more buyers at the Mart?

“The traffic seemed to be significantly lighter than previous years, “says Birch Smith, Owner, Mr. Bird, “July is always a good show for us and this year was no exception,  but there seemed to be fewer buyers walking the floor.  The good news is that our new location exposed our products to everyone that came to The Garden, so we were very successful in finding new customers.”

“Overall, I think the show was slower than the last four years,” remarked Mac McCoy, Owner & CEO, DZI, Inc., manufacturer of Wild Woolies felt birdhouses and finger puppets. “Saturday sales were down significantly from 2014”.

“We would say traffic was definitely down, but the size of orders was pretty good, “added Diane Anderson, Owner, Cohasset Gifts.  “Our buyers seemed upbeat, but tired as always. The summer show is always slow, but this year, most people seemed to be blaming the cost of coming and staying in Atlanta as a factor.”

Many buyers commented on the increased cost of lodging in Atlanta.  Rates at downtown hotels have skyrocketed in recent years, forcing buyers to spend less time at the show or not attend.  Effective July 1, 2015, a new $5 per-day hotel fee went into effect on top of the 8% state tax and the 8% local tax already imposed on hotel guests. A hotel room listed at $159 per night now ends up costing $190 per night and that doesn’t include hotel parking fees.

While the birding vendors in The Gardens on floors 9 and 10 of Building 2 saw slower traffic, the temporary birding vendors on floor four saw even less.  There were only a handful of Birding and Backyard Nature category exhibitors in the temporary exhibits this summer. Don McMahon, Owner of Birds On Things was one of them.

“It’s dead,” laments McMahon. “It’s hard to get people to come to your shopping center when the anchor stores move out.” McMahon was referring to the exodus of major birding vendors opting for permanent showrooms in The Gardens in recent years and no longer in the “temps”.
Several buyers, who normally attend the July show, didn’t come this year and commented it was the lack of store staff.  Many stores had employees taking vacations that same week, curtailing the owners from traveling to Atlanta.

With economic news flashes of a brighter holiday gift-giving season for retailers in 2015, spring buying and re-stocking are just around the corner. Scheduling a trip to the largest gift show in the world might just be worth planning for. The larger busier winter Atlanta International Gift and Home Furnishings Market is January 12-19. You may book your travel and hotel now at www.americasmart.com

Bill Fenimore Passes at 68
Bill Fenimore, birder, board member of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, occasional contributor to these pages and author of the Backyard Birds series, has passed away. His death, following a lengthy battle with kidney and heart disease, was announced by his family.

“My dear father passed away Father’s Day morning at 12:20am Father’s Day. My family was blessed to be able to spend the last few days with him, letting him know how much we appreciate him and love him. I will be forever grateful to have had such a wonderful father and teacher. It’s his love of life and nature that runs through my veins and inspires me to share our passion for birds and nature with all of you and future generations of enthusiasts.”

Forensic Lab Solves Crimes Against Wildlife
When the Endangered Species Act was passed in 1973, one of the problems was enforcement. The FBI had no experts in animal forensics, and wanted to focus on crimes against people. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Lab was therefore constructed to help analyze and provide evidence in the tracking and prosecution of possible crimes. In addition to determining how an animal died and doing ballistics tests, the lab also analyzes products to see if they did indeed come from an endangered species. The lab is also the crime lab for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, which tracks illegal animal and plant trade across countries.

WBU Stores Rev Up in Indy
The Indiana Convention Center in downtown Indianapolis was migration central for Wild Birds Unlimited franchise owners June 30-July 2, as they convened for their annual conference and exhibitor preview.

“Our trade show was a great success for store owners and suppliers alike,” says Linzi Jones, WBU’s Merchandising Project Manager. “Indianapolis is always a very accommodating city for our Enterprise Leadership Conference and Vendor Mart and our Franchise Support Center is happy to host our owners in our own backyard.  Now we’re into planning the 2016 Vendor Mart at the Oregon Convention Center in Portland, Oregon!”

“We enjoy the WBU Vendor Mart,” says Birch Smith, owner of Mr. Bird. “It’s always refreshing to talk with stores that share our passion for birding and nature.”

“The Vendor Mart was very informative,” says Kathy McKay, Owner, Wild Birds Unlimited, Woodstock, Georgia. “This was my first time attending and it was great to meet the vendors and see products that we haven’t carried before. We placed several orders to try new items.”

Suppliers interested in exhibiting at next year’s show should contact Linzi Jones at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  Franchise store owners can visit www.wbufranchise.com.

The Wild Bird Feeding Industry… Research Leads to Innovation
In recent years WBFI and its Research Foundation have devoted a lot of time and resources gaining a huge amount of detailed knowledge and data on the feeding of wild birds that can benefit any company serving the wild bird products market.

Details that include demographic information like age, income category, education, gender and so on, of those who shop for, and feed wild birds at home.  All the research is statistically reliable, drawn from a pool of millions of American and Canadian households and validated by AYTM, a professional research organization serving many of this country’s top corporations.

Members of WBFI already have this information and are using it to fine-tune their product mix, regional distribution, package design, display placement and many other applications, and feel that by sharing the data, other companies can do the same and help expand the bird-feeding marketplace for everyone. One important example is brand name – for those new to bird feeding it doesn’t matter, but those who have been feeding for a long time are relatively brand loyal.

The time and effort invested in accumulating this detail has, of course, been costly and in order to continue the survey process year by year the industry’s charitable foundation is making the 2013 and 2014 results available to non-member companies for a donation of at least $1,000 to the WBFI Research Foundation.  The Excel files will then be sent by e-mail as a thank-you gift.  Included in the files are:
•  1,600 lines of raw data for both the U.S. and for Canada
•  48 Power Point graphs for each country per year
•  Consumer purchase details by package size, annual spend per category, and seed/feeder type
•  Type of outlet they shop – mass retailer, hardware, garden center, wild bird specialty store, feed store, etc.

They’d like everyone in the industry to have, and use this information so we’re all working with the same facts and figures.  You’re invited to call WBFI Research Foundation headquarters at (888) 839-1237 anytime for more information or to make a donation, and don’t forget to check www.wbfi.org regularly for updates.

Coffee’s Better in the Shade
After many years, new data suggests that bird friendly coffee is finally catching on. Drinkers of the world’s most popular beverage increasingly favor roasts that are good for birds that inhabit the world’s coffee-growing regions.

One of the spark plugs behind the shade-grown coffee movement is Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center (SMBC) with its Certified Bird-Friendly (BF) Coffee: The rich flavor reflects growing conditions that lead the industry both in organic qualities and bird-friendliness. Sales of BF coffee from Central and South America more than doubled between 2010 and 2014, with some individual distributors recording even larger increases.

Now, to meet this escalating demand, new farmers are signing on to provide beans that meet the BF grade. In Nicaragua, for example, over 300 family farmers now grow the BF beans, up from a single farm in 2011.

The key to the remarkable flavor of BF coffee is that the beans mature far more slowly under the shade trees which in turn offer birds both insects for food and protection from predators. This extended growing process creates a deeper, richer flavor. The vast majority of commercial coffee, by contrast, is grown on farms with scant or no shade – a setting at odds with coffee’s natural understory origins of east Africa.

Dr. George Fenwick, President of American Bird Conservancy, is a big fan of BF coffee.  Over the years, “millions of acres of small shade coffee farms have been clear-cut to make way for sun-tolerant coffee, an industrialized, chemical-dependent system that renders what had been prime bird habitat into the ecological equivalent of a parking lot,” he says.

Consider some numbers behind the growing demand for BF coffee. According to Bill Wilson, who owns Birds and Beans, one of the nation’s largest distributors of BF coffee, “We have experienced about a 50 percent increase in sales of this coffee in each of the last five years. People who try it come back again and again. The increased interest has been amazing.”

While there are many coffees that are eco- or bird-friendly, the Smithsonian BF coffee is creating a buzz in spite of, or perhaps because of, rigorous, science-based certification standards its growers must meet. In fact, the Smithsonian has developed the only 100 percent organic and shade-grown coffee certification available. No other bag guarantees that every bean is produced organically and in the same high-quality habitat required by millions of migratory birds.

Americans drink a third of the world’s coffee.  That rate of consumption was the driving force behind the shift decades ago from shade-grown to full sun coffee, fueled by the lower price made possible by industrialized, chemically-controlled production methods. But flavor is making a stronger statement among the coffee cognoscenti today, and the message is getting through to specialty retailers.  Decisions made at the cash register have a profound effect on birds.
There are many brands of shade-grown coffee on the market, but not all importers follow the same roasting and blending program.  Sally Sears, who owns another major roasterie, Caffe Ibis, sells triple-certified organic, fair trade, and Smithsonian Bird Friendly coffee. She says there are two key factors driving the increase in sales. “Our buyers are conservation-conscious and know that purchasing BF coffee is a pro-environment action. Of equal value is the extraordinary flavor of specialty grade BF coffee.”

“Supermarket shelves are full of coffee that tout their environmental credentials”, says Smithsonian’s Robert Rice, who oversees the BF program at Smithsonian. What makes BF coffee different, he adds, “is the scientific underpinning of the criteria and the product purity.”

“Some certification programs allow a small percentage of non-certified product in their bag owing to the difficulty of controlling the process at the farm level. Other sustainable coffee programs permit product dilution, allowing as little as 30 percent purity in order to meet their standards and still carry their certification label. Further, some shade-grown programs don’t require that shade trees meet a minimum height. The extended growing process is what creates a deeper, richer flavor and is critical to creating quality habitat for neotropical migrants and resident birds,” he says.

Rice says that while the sales trend in recent years is encouraging, the best social aspect of BF coffee is that it rewards small producers. “Small-scale farmers are the ones with these diverse agro-forestry systems. They are good land stewards, maintaining biodiversity and providing habitat, and it’s heartwarming to see them recognized with premium prices and the BF seal.”

Although the increasing popularity of BF coffee is encouraging, Rice adds, “We aren’t yet where we need to be. Thirty percent of migratory birds continue to decline at alarming rates, and we really need to save more habitat.”

Wilson, of Birds and Beans, says that through a thriving online direct customer community and over 125 retail outlets across the country, he now distributes the BF coffee to all 50 states. He also sells BF coffee to a host of conservation-minded coffee clubs that purchase the product in bulk to help keep costs down.