I won't to lie to you, the NFL has NOT declared the Mr. Canary® Finch Feeder to be the Official Bird Feeder of the 2012 Super Bowl. But they should.
The Superbowl this year is in my city, Indianapolis. In a few weeks we're expecting about 150,000 people in our backyard celebrating the greatest football team of the year. As Hoosiers, we're no strangers to having a bunch of people hanging around town celebrating sports of one kind or another (Indy 500, The Brickyard, NCAA, Swimming Nationals etc.) so, we're pretty excited to be hosting this party for a different bunch of fan-atics. A gathering of this size, though, needs a lot of volunteers, in this case over 8000; and I'm one of them. Through volunteer training, I've learned that as big as it is, the The Big Game is just one thing the Superbowl brings to its host city.
For example, the NFL partners with Rebuilding Together® to bring their mission of "preserving home ownership and revitalizing low‐income communities to Super Bowl cities." In Indianapolis it means that on the Friday before Superbowl Sunday, volunteers and celebrities will finish some renovations begun last Fall on the city's east side. It's an environmental spruce-up that shows some love to a run-down area and benefits us all. And that little thread is what I think perfectly ties the Superbowl to feeding birds.
See, respect for the environment begins with noticing our surroundings and how it affects us, like the Superbowl organizers noticed the need on Indy's east side. Tens of thousands of people who feed/watch Goldfinches and other birds everyday are, by their very natures, big notice-ers of those kind of things that so profoundly impact our quality of life. And I'll tell you, if there's a more passionate or numerous collective than sports nuts, it's bird nuts. Imagine the environmental magic they could make together.
I won't to lie to you, the NFL has NOT declared the Mr. Canary® Finch Feeder to be the Official Bird Feeder of the 2012 Super Bowl. But they should.
Bird people like bird stuff, we're quirky that way. For those of you likewise inclined, here is my First Ever 'Five Cool Bird Gifts for Christmas' List..
My daughter, Laura, told me about Etsy.com and now I'm a big fan. It's an e-commerce site that's sort of a crafter's and artisan's answer to ebay. Etsy is where I found my first cool gift: a bird band sterling silver ring. Inspired by the bands used for counting and tracking wild birds, this simple, flat band is sublime. It features the inscription 'Banded by (insert name)', below that a location and beneath that, a date. What a great wedding ring or anniversary gift; totally unique, kinda 'artsy,' and very personal.
Here's another Etsy.com item, a cute little bird/love Christmas ornament (and seriously, what is cuter than bird/love?). It's simple and precious, handmade and totally affordable. Love it.
Literally, there are hundreds of great stationary/card/notepad options on Etsy.com for bird lovers. Here's a cute Christmas card I love because it's customizable for the number of 'birds' in your family and their names.
And what's better than a good book for Christmas?
Here's one the child in your life will like (ages 4 & up) and you'll like reading to them. Check out this Mo Willems book, There Is a Bird on Your Head! Mo Willems is a NY Times best selling author/illustrator of children's books. He won a Theodor Seuss Geisel Medal for this book, and if anyone knows about kids books, it's Dr. Suess.
Finally, and without a scintilla of braggadocio or false modesty, I recommend the Mr. Canary® Finch Feeder. That's right, MY product. It might, in fact, be the PERFECT 'everyman' gift. No kidding, it works for parents, little kids, neighbors, teachers, bus drivers, delivery people -- just about anyone..except maybe teenagers. And that's too bad because teenagers might benefit the most if they disconnected from technology and reconnected with nature a little more often. But that, is a whole 'nother blog. My point is, there is something so innately gratifying about touching nature and our small bird feeders offer an easy way to do it. Feeding birds not only brings us closer to nature, but causes us to slow down a little and notice a little more. I never saw squirrels until I started feeding birds. Do you think there weren't any...or I just didn't notice them? And ease? With our thistle feeder you don't have to decide which seed goes in what feeder because the Mr. Canary® feeder comes filled with Nyjer® seed. So simple.
But if all those reasons aren't compelling enough, consider this: when you purchase this little $5 tube bird feeder, you keep people working who have an extraordinarily difficult time finding any work, let alone decent work. As high as unemployment has ever been in our country, it hasn't come close to the unemployment/underemployment numbers for folks with disabilities. They need our support; so do their families. Be clear about this, though, my company is for-profit. And while it isn't making me rich, yet, I intend for it to. Because when it does, it'll mean a bunch of us are getting more chances, by working -- not charity, to contribute something...as anyone who is able would want to.
And that'll be the coolest 'bird gift' of all.
Then there is James, our Business Analyst.
James is our first and only employee. We have come to believe that he is our reward for our doing business the fairest way we can. He is our dream come true. He carries our stuff, stops at the bakery on his way to our meetings, and, he actually does analyze our business.
But there is more. James has character, the old-fashioned kind.
This past Memorial Day, James made the special effort to personally thank a 92 year old member of his church for serving our country in military service. He then offered to help him with anything around his home to put action to his gratitude. Well, this kind gentleman did have one request: he would like James to help him plant alfalfa! Our city guy James did not hesitate with his, “Sure!” and they made a plan. James agrees to show up at 7 p.m. because the heat of the day would be waning by then and he thought it would be a good time to learn to drive a tractor.
At the appointed time, James arrived ready to learn, and learn he did. There was no tractor and there was no plowed field. However, there was Henry Brown and a hand seeder that dispersed the seed when cranked. James learned that a field didn’t need to be free of weeds and other growth to “farm”. James started walking the 2 1/2 acres while cranking and keeping and eye on Henry who stood at the end of the field waving a broom to show James how to line up the row.
(It should be noted that Henry is NOT the typical 93 years old. He is VERY ACTIVE and currently plants at a community garden for people who do not have fresh vegetables. But, he has not been able to plant his alfalfa field since he was 89 due to the terrain!)
Jan and I sat stunned as we listened and laughed as James told us his story. OF COURSE, he kept his word when he found himself WAY out of his comfort Zone and OF COURSE; he valued the experience of spending time with Henry.
If we could package and sell what James brings to our company, we would make a mint selling it to other companies!
I'm Jan Long, one half of the Mitchell Sisters and, accordingly, one half owner of the Mr. Canary Company. This is my blog space which I'll update regularly with all sorts of marginally useful and somewhat newsy items about various bird-y things like the difference between Niger seed and Nyjer seed (hint: spelling) and the REAL reason Thistle Seed won't grow thistles in your yard (spoiler: they're sterile). PLUS, I'll reveal all kinds of secret insider information about the fast-lane lifestyle of a bird feeder mogul. Only here you'll get the glamour, the drama and all the dirty details of garden bird feeders with no holds barred!
Add this page to your news feed and baby, I'll show you who's putting the 'wild' in the wild bird seed world!
Bird Feeder Boss Lady aboard her yacht,
The Yellow Splash
My sister and I love goldfinches but not for some of the same reasons that you might think. We are not the more traditional bird watchers, but rather, gals that love Bird Bling! I mean, have you ever seen a more razzle dazzle bird than a goldfinch? Then, to that, add the whimsy of their personalities. They seem quite comfortable with people, to the point of letting you know when their feeder is empty.
And, they fit nicely into our ideas of what a backyard should look like. The tiny goldfinches top off pretty pots with flowers and plenty of comfy furniture to arrange and rearrange.
We also love the fact that our little finch feeders provide work for over 100 capable workers who have disabilities. It’s all good.
One premise on which our company is built is the notion that when you look closer at something, you often find it's different than you imagined. Like bird enthusiasts for example. We believe that if you have a little tube bird feeder hanging in your backyard serving up thistle seed to Goldfinch, it doesn't mean you don't have a sense of humor. A funny reminder of that is the inspiration for this blog.
Recently I spoke to a retired senior executive at Walmart about my company and our Mr. Canary thistle feeder. We talked about a wide range of things from feeding birds in general to our finch feeder in particular, along with marketing strategies and product ideas. It was enlightening to say the least. Discussing the importance of knowing your industry inside and out, for example, we had this exchange:
Mr. Walmart: "Have you ever Googled 'bird feeding in Norway?"
Me: "No, have you?"
Mr. Walmart: "Never. But I'm not in the bird feeder business."
"One of the studies looked at great tits and blue tits living in woods in England while the other considered great tits living in a test site bordering suburban Oslo, Norway."
Our company urges people to look closer before making assumptions. One way we do that is by letting the cat out of the bag about bird lovers: they aren't all the studied, serious hobbyists of Audubon lore. Some are like me. We notice pretty birds sometimes, especially when they're served with a side of belly laughs.
Thank you students of great tits in suburban Oslo; you made my day.
Rebecca Romijn in X Men
I was thinking back about a few other birds that I 'knew'. When my daughter, was about to be married, a mother robin built her nest in the wreath hanging beside my front door. I checked on the blue eggs each day and was as excited as if I were their mother the first time I saw their scrawny little bodies with their over-sized heads wobbling, mouths open wide to let someone know they were hungry. Often each day, I would peek into the nest. I was amazed at how fast they grew. Soon it was comical at how those fat little birds were actually lopped over the sides of the nest so they could still stuff their too big bodies in their familiar home. The mother would sit on our wall and call to them. I imagined that she was saying, “OK you guys, it’s time for you to move out! Your dad and I have things we want to do.” On the very day my girl was leaving for her wedding and new life, those birds flew out of the nest. What a moment. I was shown by nature itself that the time does come for things to change and only by leaving the nest can we fly.
A few days ago and a few hours after Mother's Day, I had another life lesson. My precious Mom passed from this life to the next. We didn't expect it and I definitely was not prepared to be flung from my nest. I live across the street from Mom. Every moment I am reminded that things have changed. I wish I could see her again. I wish I could hug her one more time. But, the sun is out today and I can see a little more clearly. She loved me, trained me and now she expects me to fly. I'm trying.
In our family, talk about feeding birds or Nyjer seed is about as common as daily meals. From the day our Dad, Ray Mitchell, put together the first Mr. Canary Finch Feeder through today, birds in general, and goldfinches in particular, have been a constant family topic. That's why my 'Mother's Day' blogpost was going to be about my Mom and her contribution to our company. And then quite suddenly, a few hours after Mother's Day, my beautiful, funny, smart heroic Mom, Georgia, died. The person who has shown our family every kind of courage and determination and taught us to play the cards we're dealt, is gone. Suddenly, it feels like my life has frozen and I'm waiting. Just like baby birds who have outgrown the nest, I'm waiting for my Mom to return with nurturing and comfort; but she doesn't come and it feels like the cruelest misery. Somehow, after awhile, the babies and I will take the lessons we've learned and move forward again like nature demands, but not today.
Our family business operates in exactly that order of emphasis: FAMILY business. If our emails are returned a little tardily or a return call is delayed, I wanted our wonderful and loyal customers to know why. In the way my sister and I were taught to live, by our extraordinarily resilient Mom, we'll be back to work again with an optimistic eye on what's ahead. Somehow. After awhile. In the meantime, though, thank you so much for your kind words of support and encouragement, it's impossible to overstate how much they mean.
I live in Indiana, home of Hoosiers (the people) and the setting of Hoosiers, the "BEST Sports Movie" according to an ESPN panel of experts. It's no coincidence that the same name applies to our state natives and the title of a movie about our state passion; in Indiana, we love us some basketball! 'March Madness' is, for people of our state, kinda like it's own season: Spring, March Madness, Summer, Fall and Winter.
Does March Madness have anything to do with a finch feeder or wild bird seed,
the things you expect to hear about on this website? Well, not in the classic sense I suppose, but it does provide a perfect depiction of the Common Loon[s], the non-Nyjer-loving birds conducting their annual 'pre-connubial' speed dating ritual on the lake outside my house. It's like Large Water Birds on Spring Break or Birds Gone Wild around here. 'Deafening' doesn't do justice to the decibel level of their, uh, affection? for one another. I'm just saying, if they were gathering in a condo common area you know the Covenants and Practices Committee would be calling their parents.
Get a load of the Loon love outside my door with this site. Turn up your speakers, multiply the sound by about 200 and you can vicariously participate in nature's Hoosier Hysteria. Me? I'm going to refill my thistle feeders, root for Butler University and embrace the madness.
Photo, Barbara Nuffler. http://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/59440.html
Where I sit to tap out my blog each week is right by my office window. It's not unusual to see a half dozen or so birds hanging on my garden bird feeders, on the other side of the glass, 3 feet from my desk. It's easy to find inspiration related to bird feeder socks and thistle seed, you know the stuff we talk about on this website, while observing life happening directly in my line of vision. Usually it's easy. The problem is life has shifted since my last blog, in a dramatic way.
Today when I look out my window instead of funny stories about bird watchers or feeding birds, when I look at the wild bird seed free-for-all so typical outside my window all I can think of is how atypical life is for Japan's wildlife right now. We rightfully focus on the human toll at times like this but when the dust settles the bigger picture always emerges and we are reminded one more time that we do not just 'enjoy' or 'respect' nature, we ARE nature. What happens to any living thing on this planet affects every living thing. It's humbling and comforting at once. In the midst of tragedy and trauma we witness, again and again, examples of resilience in nature that miraculously show us the way forward.
When I'm writing, I often run terms through a thesaurus to get a clearer understanding of their connotation. Other words for 'resilience,' it turns out, are gutsiness, grit, toughness, endurance...heart. I read an article today about 'Wisdom,' an over-60-year old Laysan albatross who survived this month's planet-altering earthquake and tsunami. Said Barry Stieglitz,a project leader for the Fish and Wildlife Service:
Indeed. And maybe she's also a gutsy old broad with a lot of heart. Maybe she's here to encourage our own resilience and remind us of our interdependence on each other for all our survival. Like the Big Lebowski, this 'dude'-ette, just abides. Whatever, Wisdom's incidental challenge to us is to live, despite the odds. She made my day, lifted my spirit and urged me to call the Red Cross...then get back to my finch feeder stories. Life, Wisdom shows us, keeps moving forward; and unless we leave her to be the only gutsy dame surviving, we have to abide.
Photo credit: John Klavitter, USFWS
He looked back at his dad and held out his arm using his two fingers and his thumb to make a pinching motion, as if to say, "quack, quack". These two bikers knew the secret code. Jeff didn't say a word. Using the same two fingers and his thumb, he took hold of Ben's shirt and walked beside him as he peddled downhill. That tiny pinch of security gave Ben wings.
As for me, his grandmother, I sell birdfeeders. I admit it's not a particularly hip profession, however, in those few moments with the bicycle, I saw how to talk to Ben about feeding birds and being a good friend to nature. I will tell him how mother and father birds take complete care of their babies until they are strong enough to take care of themselves. And, when the baby birds are ready, they are nudged out of the nest into the sky to fly! Baby birds grow up and learn to do new things, just like Ben. And, I will tell this story because I believe that if we can help a child connect with nature on any level, he will be more kind to it. He will grow up noticing clean water and ground that has no trash. He will occasionally look up to see a chirping bird or notice them lined up on an electric wire as if they were playing a game. He will notice how tiny some birds are and be awestruck at their colors. He will notice that if you feed birds they will live in your yard. He will grow up noticing. There are many things drawing a child's attention from nature. Not bad things. Just other things.
- Reason 1: It works. When I say 'if you hang it, they will come,' that's pretty much all you need to know. WildBird Magazine even recommended it as the backyard feeder for people who love the American Goldfinch, so you have at least TWO endorsements.
- Reason 2: It is easy. Seriously, if you can't figure out this feeder, you should consider a different hobby. Just remove the label covering the holes, insert the perch, hang it up and wait for the birds.
- Reason 3: It helps America. Okay I can imagine you're rolling your eyes at this suggestion, but hear me out. The Mr. Canary® Company epitomizes small business in America. All components of the bird feeder are provided by American companies, except the seed because all Nyjer seed is imported to the U.S. This tube bird feeder is produced by a workforce that overcomes major disabilities to insure it's top quality and shipped on time, coast to coast, all year. The production facility itself is located in a Small Business Administration (SBA) HubZone, or 'Historically Underutilized Business Zone.' In other words, the government has declared the area 'distressed' in terms of economy and employment. No matter how high the unemployment rate is, though, for people with disabilities it's higher. Some experts say that underemployment and unemployment for disabled workers is as high as 70%. When you purchase this product, you incidentally provide dignified work opportunities for people who, frankly, don't get many. It also supports the families of those workers who appreciate knowing their loved ones are 'earning and learning' in a compassionate environment. That helps America. Finally, this finch feeder allows two unlikely women entrepreneurs the chance to own an unusual company that can make a profit...and a little difference. THAT helps America.
If you choose a path that is not so neat and defined,
and follow it one step at a time,
without preconceived notions of how things must be,
you will most certainly be surprised with the possibilities!
When we began our company 15 years ago, we sold our first order before we had the slightest idea HOW and WHERE we would MAKE the feeders. For a ridiculous moment, we talked of making them in a garage. When we came to our senses, I suggested we ask Carey Services; our local organization employing and training disabled workers, if they could assemble, pack and ship our birdfeeders for us. We both hoped they would say yes. We knew we had to insist on excellent quality products and nationwide on time shipping without exception. We met, explained our needs, and then we stepped back and watched it happen.
Working with Carey Services has been the single most important business decision we have made. We have never been disappointed, only amazed. How such an incredible workforce has been so completely overlooked is beyond us.
So, I thank you for taking time to learn about Mr. Canary® and promise you that our goal is, and has always been, to provide our customers with great birdfeeders at a fair price. Please check with us often as we will be updating our packaging and offering new birdfeeders for your enjoyment!
I own a company that sells birdfeeders, but birdfeeders are not my passion. My passion is bird feeders, as in people who spend their time and their money feeding birds. I love ‘em. L-O-V-E them. Why? Because bird people are good people, the kind of people you want to know. They care about stuff like wildlife and our environment, you know what I mean -- they pay attention to the planet. They have an innate understanding that ‘nature’ is about all of us, every living thing. Plus, (and this is just your big fat bonus) they’re crazy nice. Honestly, my sister and I have been in this business for 15 years and you would be stunned at the number of kind letters we’ve received and the words of encouragement left on our voicemail since we started. However, ‘good people’ is the only stereotype I know that holds true about wild bird feeders. Bird enthusiasts are a diverse community of folks with all kinds of personal attributes spanning a wide range of ages:
- They feed birds during their lunch hours
- They fill their garden bird feeders on Saturday morning before a round of golf
- They give bird gifts to their friends
- They share a kids bird feeder with a child in their lives.
There are birders who build their suburban backyards into nature sanctuaries and those who hang tube bird feeders from balconies of urban apartment buildings. And as wide as our diversity is our magnitude - there are millions of birders, seriously, MILLIONS! ‘Birding’ is the number one hobby – beyond even fishing or hunting – and it’s growing.
When the economy tanks, people keep buying bird seed. Even as high technology is changing our lives by the second, some birder will still be filling a low-tech finch feeder whenever it runs out of thistle seed because bird feeders are ‘good people.’
So for you who fit the Audubon Society stereotype, and for all of us who fall outside that typecast, welcome to your Internet Bird House. I invite you to share and learn, and come back often .
To differentiate between the imported niger oilseed used to feed wild birds and thistle - as well as to eliminate any possibility of offensively mispronouncing the word "niger" - the Wild Bird Feeding Industry trademarked the name Nyjer in 1998. Unfortunately, Nyjer seed is still referred to by many people who feed wild birds as well as by some in the industry who package and sell wild bird food and as both niger and thistle.
How niger seed ever became confused with thistle seed in the first place is somewhat of a mystery, although it is probably due to the fact that some birds - goldfinches in particular - do eat the seeds of thistle plants and also use the downy fluff for their nests. If given a choice of thistle and Nyjer, however, birds will pick Nyjer over thistle due to the fact it is a superior seed that is higher in both calories and oil content.
Thistle is considered a noxious weed that is capable of taking over entire fields and is the bane of many farmers in North America. Unlike true niger oilseed (now Nyjer), which is known by the scientific name Guizotia abyssinica and has yellow, daisy-like flowers, thistle has pink to purple ball-shaped flowerheads that consist of many spine-tipped bracts.