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Mar 7, 2022

Get Happy at Wild Birds Unlimited: Discover the joys of backyard bird feeding and secure your ticket to the best show in town

Linda Hopkins

Photography By

M.KAT Photography
While we are bombarded with instant information and streaming entertainment every day, you may find it shocking to learn that one of the most riveting shows on Earth is taking place right outside your backdoor—no account, no digital subscription, no Wi-Fi required. You can watch free of charge any time, but when you’re ready to tune in more closely, pick up everything you need at Wild Birds Unlimited (WBU), located at Festival Centre on Hilton Head Island, and prepare to binge-watch the birds in your backyard.

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“Sometimes the world gets so fast, slowing down and watching them for 10 or 15 minutes just helps,” said local WBU franchise owner, Sean Ryan. And if anyone needs the world to slow down, it might just be Ryan, a single father of four teens, ages 15-19.

It was Ryan’s wife Jessica who first encouraged him to get into the bird feeding business. “She wanted to be a small business owner, and she loved feeding the birds,” Ryan said. The couple purchased their first WBU store in Hickory, N.C. in 2019. A year later, they bought the High Point, N.C. store, and in November of 2020, they purchased the Hilton Head Island location.

Jessica passed away in January of 2021, but Ryan has no regrets about the business they started together, and he plans to continue growing it. “We have intentions of opening a second location in Bluffton,” he said.

Meanwhile, Ryan’s primary career is in technology program management, and he is currently in a position that allows him to work from home. “So, I’m doing that and doing this and raising kids,” he said.

If you’re wondering why in the world this man would continue building his bird empire when he has so many other irons in the fire, it’s all about the joy of the job. “If you think about all the jobs you’ve had in your life, this is one of the few I’ve ever had where pretty much everything about it is positive,” he said. “This store is our customers’ happy place.
“From a customer service and customer engagement point of view, everything that happens in the store is enjoyable,” he continued. “And we take care of the customer. A number of our products have lifetime guarantees. So, if it’s broken, we fix it or replace it. It doesn’t matter if it’s 10 years old. Just bring it in to our team, and we will work with you to get it right.”

Why feed the birds?

Cornell Lab of Ornithology, in collaboration with other researchers, has published a new study that evaluates the populations of more than 500 North American bird species. The results are nothing short of shocking! Today, the skies over North America are home to nearly three billion fewer birds than they were in 1970, which means that almost one out of every four birds has disappeared from our lives over the past 50 years.

The study also revealed steep declines among some traditionally abundant and common backyard birds, such as robins, finches, orioles and sparrows. WBU is committed to help bring birds back. And each one of us can make a difference. Find out more at wbu.com/bring-birds-back/.

What to feed the birds

According to the National Wildlife Federation (NWF), birds consume up to 10,000 calories a day (the human equivalent of a 155,000-calorie diet!), so backyard bird feeders are a helpful supplement for wild birds’ feeding requirements.

It gives them a place to be and keeps them coming back, Ryan explained. “Usually, if you get your feeders up, the birds come back again and again. You’ll see the same ones, and you’ll see the babies. You sort of build your own little ecosystem.”

When it comes to selecting seed, quality matters—another reason to shop at WBU. Birds are remarkably proficient at assessing potential food items for nutritional content and quality, according to the NWF. If you watch your feeder closely, you may observe the birds lightly rattling individual seeds in their bills to weigh and taste them before deciding whether to drop them to the ground or eat them.

WBU is your local source for the highest quality seed as well as feeders and other equipment needed to keep your backyard birds happy and coming back for more. “We have pure seed, and we have blends,” Ryan said. “All of our blends are no-waste. Other stores may sell you a 20-lb. bag for less, but there is a lot of filler and junk seed that the birds won’t eat. There’s no filler in any of our feed.”

How to feed the birds

Need some help selecting and setting up your feeders? Save yourself a Google search and tap into the human knowledge base at WBU. “I have amazing people who work here who enjoy coming to work and sharing it,” Ryan said. Mark Bottini manages the Hilton Head Island store. Staff members include Nan, Laura, Mary, Ashley, and Tom. “They are the secret to the store. They are the experts on birding in the area,” Ryan said.

“We can help you set up your bird feeding stations for maximum enjoyment,” Ryan said. “We have solutions to help you figure out how to feed the birds where you need to feed them—whether it’s hardware or hot seed or other products, we can help solve your problems and enjoy your hobby.

“At the end of the day, why would you come to us? Quality. Experience. And we’re doing good in the world. You do a business like this because it feels good, it’s doing good, and it’s helping others feel good,” Ryan said. “You have this multiplication of joy that tends to come with this little store that sells birdseed.”

In a world overwhelmed with technology, bird feeding provides a much-needed escape from daily stressors. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced birder, Ryan and his knowledgeable staff at WBU are there to help you enhance your birding experience and get more enjoyment from all that nature has to offer. Stop by today and discover your new happy place.

Wild Birds Unlimited Hilton Head is located at Festival Centre, 45 Pembroke Dr., Hilton Head Island. For more information, visit hiltonhead.wbu.com.

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