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Wild Birds Unlimited and Bird Studies Canada’s Shared Mission of Ornithological Education

The organizations work together on a suite of educational programs

By Ben Warren1851 Franchise Managing Editor
SPONSORED 9:09AM 06/07/18

For more than 30 years, Wild Birds Unlimited has been expanding its reach throughout North America establishing in that time more than 320 locations across the continent. The brand’s mission to be a leader not only in retail offerings but also in education and community partnerships has made its stores neighborhood hubs for hobbyists of all ages and experience levels.

But Wild Birds Unlimited is not the only organization in North America working to spread ornithological knowledge and promote wild-bird conservation. Bird Studies Canada has worked for decades to protect and celebrate birds through public engagement, research, conservation and science-based advocacy. For the past 18 years, Wild Birds Unlimited and Bird Studies Canada have worked together on a number of programs to realize their shared mission.

Founded as the Long Point Bird Observatory in 1960, Bird Studies Canada was incorporated in 1968 and was focused primarily on bird banding for much of its early years. Eventually, the organization expanded its scope to include ornithological research, bird surveys and educational programming for all ages.

The organization’s purview continued to expand for years, becoming by 1998 Canada’s leading bird conservation charity, with programs in every province and territory and regional offices from coast to coast.

Two years later, Wild Birds Unlimited began sponsoring one of Bird Studies Canada’s surveys, marking the beginning of a long and fruitful partnership between the two organizations.

The survey, which is still sponsored by Wild Birds Unlimited today, is called Project FeederWatch. Kerrie Wilcox, the program’s coordinator and executive assistant, says Wild Birds Unlimited’s sponsorship of the survey has been invaluable.

“Project FeederWatch is a winter-long survey of birds at feeders, and the more data we can gather, the better. Wild Birds Unlimited promote the survey in their stores and in social media, which brings in a ton of interest, support and data,” she said.

Since 2000, Wild Birds Unlimited has continued to sponsor Project FeederWatch and contributed their support to a variety of other Bird Studies Canada programs, including Destination Eagle, a project designed to learn more about Southern Ontario’s bald eagles, which were designated as an at-risk species when the program was initiated in 2007.

In recent years, Wild Birds Unlimited has been a particularly active sponsor of the Great Backyard Bird Count in Canada, an annual global bird-counting project conducted each February. Like with Project FeederWatch, the primary benefit of Wild Birds Unlimited’s support of the Great Backyard Bird Count is exposure, but the franchise has also provided crucial financial support for the program.

“Wild Birds Unlimited’s promotion of the program has been fantastic,” said Gregor Beck, Bird Studies Canada’s senior conservation advisor, “The financial support has also been very important. These programs run on tight budgets, and Wild Birds Unlimited has allowed us to keep them running effectively.”

Beck says much of the support that Bird Studies Canada receives from Wild Birds Unlimited comes not just from the franchisor, but from individual store owners who have reached out to the organization independently.

“We’ve worked with Wild Birds Unlimited store owners in a variety of ways,” Beck said. “A lot of stores are actively involved in promoting our programs through product donation or teaming up with our staff on local initiatives. There has been an enormous amount of collaboration.”

As both organizations look to the future, Beck says he looks forward to a continuing partnership between Bird Studies Canada and Wild Birds Unlimited.

“Our partnership has been such a natural fit,” Beck said. “We have so many areas of mutual interest, and by sharing our knowledge and resources, we’ve been able to reach so many more people than we could alone. Programs like the FeederWatch and the Great Backyard Bird Count are long-running initiatives, and to have the long-term support of Wild Birds Unlimited for those projects is fantastic.”

Photo courtesy of Bird Studies Canada.

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