The colorful streak of a bird flying through the air is more than just a beautiful sight for Bruce and Mary Kirk. It is a way of life.
The couple opened Wild Birds Unlimited in Grass Valley, which offers bird feed and supplies from one of more than 100 locations in the U.S. and Canada.
Bruce Kirk has been a birdwatcher ever since he was a child. He has always been a nature lover and appreciates educating people about birds. Bruce Kirk’s profession as a metalworking teacher of 30 years at Yuba College has come in handy as, since retiring, he still uses his knack for building to repair and customize feeders and cages.
Such skills and love for birds keep the business competitive against online retailers, he said.
“You certainly can go online, but you don’t get the service we offer. Service is one of the things we really pride ourselves on,” Kirk said. “When people come into the store, we want them to leave with everything we need for the hobby so they don’t get home and find something they missed. It’s the local hometown experience that you don’t get online, and many of our prices are cheaper than online.”
Mary Kirk’s love for birds is based on their variety and transience.
“They’re very fascinating and beautiful and there’s a wide variety of them, and when you sit and watch the birds, it’s a constantly changing scene, so it’s very soothing and relaxing,” she said. “There’s a lot to know about them.”
The idea to open a branch of the store came from Mary Kirk’s cousin, who owned a store in Virginia.
“We looked into it and decided it was what we wanted to do,” Mary Kirk said.
The Kirks have no caged birds, participating instead in backyard bird feeding, which Bruce Kirk said is the second most popular outdoor hobby next to gardening.
Such popularity is what Kirk believes has contributed to the business’ success, along with the freshness and effectiveness of the bird feed.
“We have a wide variety of foods in order to attract many different birds in your yard,” he said, adding that the seed is formulated depending on geographic bird preferences.
“You’re not going to find fresher or cleaner seed than ours,” Bruce Kirk said.
“Most birdseeds you buy today have fillers in them, and ours have none whatsoever, and that’s a big thing. Birds can tell the difference.”
The store also offers hopper and tube feeders, an eco clean feeder — coated with an ion that stops the growth of bacteria and mold to maintain cleanliness — and bird baths and books.
The Kirks aspire not only to offer quality products, but also to focus on the health of birds through the business’ periodic feeder cleanings and repairs.
Another focus is the education of customers by hiring skillful, knowledgeable employees who offer facts and tidbits of information, Bruce Kirk said. For example, the morning dove does not drink water like other birds but can suck water.
“We train our staff with information we get from several naturalists, so that what we’re trying to do is give our customers the best backyard bird feed experience they can get.”
Wild Birds Unlimited also uses information from Cornell University and its ornithology laboratory on the nutritional needs of birds. The Kirks have participated in programs in which they provide information and updates on local birds and exchange information with the lab.
The Kirks also seek to involve young people “because they are going to be the stewards of our society,” Bruce Kirk said.
Wild Birds Unlimited is located at 119 Neal St. in Grass Valley. For information, call 530-272-7744.
“Birds are beautiful. They are part of our environment, and they’re just wonderful to see,” Bruce Kirk said.
“It’s like you can walk by your feeder and a see a new bird there, and all of a sudden, you’ve spent some time and seen something new.”
To contact Staff Writer Jennifer Terman, email email@example.com or call 530-477-4230.