July 2019

Wild Birds Unlimited: Your ticket to the best show in town.

Author: Linda S. Hopkins | Photographer: M.Kat Photography

While we are bombarded with instant information and entertainment every day, one of the most riveting shows of all is taking place right outside of our doors—no subscription or electronic devices required. You can watch for free any time, but when you’re ready to tune in more closely, pick up everything you need at Wild Birds Unlimited Nature Shop and prepare to binge-watch the birds in your backyard.

“If you’re paying attention, the world is a fascinating and amazing place, which is how our interest in birding began,” said Julia Dennis, who owns and operates the local WBU franchise along with her husband Sean.

Dennis said she’s always been attentive to activity going on in her own backyard—”watching the birds, squirrels, deer, bats, alligators—all the interactions and relationships. It’s impossible not to be captivated by all the drama that nature has to offer on a daily basis—whether it’s a baby bluebird screaming to be fed, a hawk being chased by smaller crows, or an Osprey going in for a thrilling dive for fish.”

The Lowcountry is brimming with bird life—in your yard, on the beach, in our parks—all around. And for many area residents, feeding the birds is a fun and rewarding hobby. “Feeding birds is an easy way to connect with the outdoors and with nature and with other living creatures,” Dennis said.

Whether you are a beginner or an experienced birder, Dennis and her knowledgeable staff at WBU are there to help you enhance your birding experience and get more enjoyment from all that nature has to offer. “Our mission statement is: ‘We bring people and nature together, and we do it with excellence,’” Dennis said.

If you are already attuned to your feathered friends, chances are you have discovered WBU as a source for feed and supplies as well as gift items for friends and fellow nature lovers. But if you’re new to the hobby or are even the slightest bit curious, don’t be afraid to visit the store, look around, and ask questions. “We want every person who comes in to feel like family here,” Dennis said. “Talking to people about the birds in their yard and being able to take that glimmer of interest and introduce new ideas to them is the most enjoyable part of our day.”

More than just a feed and seed store, WBU is filled with a beautiful array of merchandise. You’ll find bird houses, bird feeders, bird baths, bird seed, suet and meal worm … plus binoculars, nature guides, and tons of gift items: puzzles, Corinthian Bells, cards, local photography, jewelry, hats, wine toppers, notepads, towel sets, coloring books, coasters, and even catnip for your favorite feline friend.

And you’ll also get to meet the shop cats, Maynard and Stella. Maynard (who sports a little goatee) is named after Maynard G. Krebs, as portrayed by Bob Denver on The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis. Stella is named after Sean’s grandmother. Both cats were adopted from Hilton Head Humane Association. “Most people are captivated that there’s a cat in a bird store. They are the heart and soul of our store,” Dennis said. She also welcomes dogs (on leashes) to come in the store—as long as they get along with the cats.

Got squirrels?
Squirrels are notorious for stealing the food you put out for the birds. “Squirrel problems are by far the biggest problem we have here,” Dennis said, offering three solutions: “You can buy a squirrel-proof feeder; you can put a baffle on your current setup or get a setup that allows a really good baffle that prevents them from being able to get up to your feeders; or you can buy food they don’t like.

Traditionally, that would have been safflower, because safflower is a very bitter food. But it’s not the favorite food of a lot of birds—it’s usually a second choice. So, now we have a hot pepper version of our No-Mess bird seed. The nice thing is that birds don’t have the taste receptors to tell that it’s hot, and it doesn’t hurt them internally. We’ve always had hot pepper suet and hot pepper bark butter bits (extraordinarily popular with birds—we call it ‘bird crack’). And we have had seed cylinders. But this is the first time we’ve offered the loose seed. It’s two to three times hotter than the other loose seeds available on the market,” Dennis said.

WBU also offers quality pole systems that are stable and can be customized any way you want. “You can add a top, an additional four-top (four hooks), or put a nifty little meal worm feeder on there (for the bluebirds),” Dennis said. And you can add baffles to thwart the efforts of ambitious squirrels as well as persistent raccoons. The baffle has to be four-and-a half- to five-feet up off the ground. (Squirrels can jump vertically up to five feet and horizontally up to 10 feet, Dennis explained.)

“When people say the baffle doesn’t work, it’s usually because they are not using it properly. It’s a really satisfying part of our job to be able to have that person walking in just beaming after we help them fix the problem.”

WBU helps promote a healthy relationship with nature and the environment by educating customers and hosting special in-store events. In addition, nine times a year, they offer beginner bird walks, led by Bob Speare, a master naturalist who worked for Massachusetts Audubon for 25 years. “He knows everything there is to know about birds and is really good at explaining it to people who have never done a bird walk or don’t know much about the birds in their yards. He makes it interesting and fun for everybody, no matter how much experience you have,” Dennis said. Advance registration is required along with a $5 deposit, redeemable for anything in the store. There is typically a waiting list, so the deposit helps ensure that people who sign up will show up, she explained.

For the best show in town, visit WBU today and catch the next episode of nature’s drama in your own backyard.

Wild Birds Unlimited is located in the Festival Centre, 45 Pembroke Drive, Suite 130, Hilton Head Island. For more information on merchandise, upcoming events, and bird walks, visit www.hiltonhead.wbu.com or call (843) 802-2010.

Just getting into Birding?
Top 10 things to pick up at Wild Birds Unlimited for the novice avian enthusiast

“Eliminator” Squirrel-proof Feeder
Simply the best feeder on the market. Keeps birds happy and foils the squirrels. Easy to fill and clean. Lifetime warranty (we handle the repairs in-house). ($105)

Tidy Cylinder Feeder w/Bug, Nut, and Berry Seed Cylinder
Limited storage for bags of bird food? Our seed cylinders make feeding the birds easy, even when you’re away on your own flight of fancy. ($45 for the combo)

Advanced Pole System Basic Setup
Add an attractive bird feeding station to your backyard or deck. Easy to install yet sturdy and secure. A range of accessories let you create the perfect lunch spot for your feathered friends. ($85)

Choice Blend
With two types of sunflower seed, safflower seed, shelled peanuts and sunflower chips, this tasty blend attracts a wide variety of songbirds to your yard. Always fresh. ($5-$35, depending on size)

Hot Pepper Bark Butter Bits
Over 140 species of birds (and counting) have been seen eating these super-nutritious nuggets. Bluebirds take them to the nest for their young! Available in regular and hot pepper (to deter squirrels and raccoons. ($15).

Opticron Discovery 8×32 and Alpha 8×42 Binoculars
Perfect for birding. The Discovery also excels at close focus (for watching butterflies and bees). The Alpha features extra-low dispersion glass for the clearest view at a distance. ($140-$460)

Birds of the Carolinas Field Guide
Our go-to book for quick ID of bird species. Groups birds by primary color, with great photos and descriptions. Covers the majority of birds seen in Lowcountry yards, parks, wetlands, and the beach. ($15)

Charlie Harper Monteverde Jigsaw Puzzle
Need backup plans for a rainy day? This fun and challenging puzzle features the mid-century artist’s vision of birds found in Costa Rica’s famous Cloud Forest. ($20)

Evans “Brute Senior” Aggregate Birdbath
So good we have these shipped in from Grand Rapids, MI. The perfect depth for birds. Made of reinforced concrete with an aggregate surface resembling a stream bed. (Price varies.)

High-Perch Hummingbird Feeder
The perch ring encourages hummingbirds to sip and sit for a spell, giving you more time to watch. Easy to clean, doesn’t leak, and has a moat to keep the nectar free of insects. ($15-$34)

Recycled Ultimate Bluebird House
With a special viewing panel plus other quality features, this very durable nesting box provides a safe place for bluebird parents to raise a family—while letting you be the nosy-but-nice neighbor. ($35-$86)

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