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Wild Birds Unlimited Bark Butter Products Expanded, Now Attract Up to 148 Types of Birds

The expanded line includes Jim's Birdacious® Hot Pepper Bark Butter®, which helps to deter squirrels.

By Cristina Merrill1851 Franchise Contributor
SPONSOREDUpdated 12:12PM 01/22/19

Wild Birds Unlimited has expanded its Jim's Birdacious® Bark Butter® product line. As a result, the brand’s Bark Butter products now attract up to 148 species of birds and can be used anywhere to attract the widest variety of birds without bird-watching enthusiasts having to worry about squirrels and other backyard critters consuming it.

The product line now includes Hot Pepper Bark Butter, Bugs & Bits™ and QuickBites™ Bark Butter®. Hot Pepper Bark Butter, in particular, is a major game-changer for bird-feeding enthusiasts. The product is made with a special pepper oil that deters squirrels.

Wild Birds Unlimited also made a major change to its Bark Butter products by adding calcium. This helps the birds meet their nutritional needs, especially during the spring nesting season.

“Calcium is a mineral that is very challenging for birds to find,” Wild Birds Unlimited Manager of Product and Hobby Education Brian Cunningham said. “They need it in large quantities when they are laying eggs. Growing baby birds need calcium too. To have it all in Bark Butter is extremely convenient.”

Expanding the Bark Butter product line was important to the Wild Birds Unlimited team.

“We’ve got people customers and bird customers,” Cunningham said. “We wondered how we could attract new birds and also view bird behaviors not commonly seen in most backyards. Of course, we also wanted to make sure it was going to be safe and effective.”

Bark Butter: A History

The genesis of the Bark Butter products happened over  30 years ago when Wild Birds Unlimited President, Founder and CEO Jim Carpenter was trying to attract a small brown creeper bird that would never come to his bird feeder. That bird was more attracted to insects, so Carpenter made a sort of bird pudding aimed at insect-eating birds in the wintertime. That bird pudding was spreadable and very successful with the brown creeper.

Just over 10 years ago, Carpenter thought it would be a good idea to sell this spreadable treat to Wild Birds Unlimited customers who were interested in attracting more birds to their backyards.

“It took about two years to get the formula correct,” Cunningham said. “Today, our Bark Butter products are super effective for attracting all sorts of birds. At first, we found that it attracted 100 different species and we started developing other variations, from spreadable formula to little bits. Now, we’re up to 148 different species. No other bird food attracts that many birds. To be able to bring new bird activity into our customers’ yards is a truly wonderful thing.”

Going from making Bark Butter in the kitchen to mass producing it was no easy feat.

“It’s got to be the same consistency,” Cunningham said. “You have to be able to spread it on tree bark. It has to stick but not fall off and it can’t be too sticky. We also have to make it easy to eat. Birds should be able to take small or big bites.”

As the Wild Birds Unlimited team started developing the Bark Butter product and testing it, they soon realized the product was attracting some unexpected birds.

“We found a number of surprises,” Cunningham said. “We got excited because the product attracted American Robins, which aren’t your typical feeder bird. We found that if you get Bark Butter in the right place, they will come to it. And if you take Bark Butter and crumble it, American goldfinches will come and feed on it. Junco birds usually eat seed, but we started seeing them feed on the Bark Butter.”

The biggest surprise by far, though, for Cunningham and his team was the appearance of hummingbirds.

“We’ve had a handful of two species of hummingbirds eating it,” Cunningham said. “They typically drink nectar and eat insects, but they had the Bark Butter product multiple times during migration and wintertime, in which insects are hard to find and nectar is frozen.”

Bark Butter Today

Bark Butter can be spread on tree trunks or put in a specialty feeder that Wild Birds Unlimited carries. It can also be smeared onto bird food.

“We have eight different variations of Bark Butter,” Cunningham said. “We’ve developed bits, cylinders, cakes and quick bites, which provides our customers with a variety of ways to offer it to birds.”

The customer response has been very positive.

“People love it,” Cunningham said. “It’s easy. It’s convenient. They love adding it to their food lineup for their birds and they love being able to sit and watch new behaviors and new birds.”

While the brand has seen great success in attracting so many birds through its Bark Butter products, Cunningham and his fellow bird enthusiasts are far from finished. He and his team want Bark Butter products to attract more than 150 species of birds, and Cunningham’s personal wish list includes certain species of finches, sapsuckers and warblers.

“To be able to see 148 species of birds over the course of 10 years is phenomenal, but there are still more species out there,” Cunningham said. “We are always looking for what’s the next step. We always want to enhance the experience for folks in their backyards.”

Wild Birds Unlimited is the original and largest franchise system of backyard bird feeding and nature specialty stores with more than 300 locations throughout the United States and Canada. Wild Birds Unlimited specializes in bringing people and nature together with bird feeding and nature products, expert advice and educational events. Wild Birds Unlimited recently ranked No. 2 overall and No. 1 in the Retail category on Franchise Business Review’s prestigious 2018 Franchisee Satisfaction Awards. Visit our website and shop online at To learn how you can open your own Wild Birds Unlimited, visit

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