Handmade: Bird lovers flock to feed feathered friends

Jocelynn Brown
The Detroit News

Rosann Kovalcik operates a business that can best be described by saying it’s for the birds — literally. She’s owned and operated a franchise known as Wild Birds Unlimited in Grosse Pointe Woods, 20381 Mack, for “22 unbelievably wonderful years.”

A serious bird watcher since her teen years, the Grosse Pointe Woods resident says, “I’ve always liked birds and watching them outside, but the hobby of feeding them outside was something I’d never done until I discovered Wild Birds Unlimited in 1992, which is when I opened my store.”

Seeing a booth at a wild life exhibit in Southfield is what led the then stay-at-home mom of three to spread her wings and start what has become a very successful business. “I decided this would be a great opportunity to feed birds and show people how to feed them, as well as make a living at it,” she says.

Bird lovers have a plethora of bird feeding supplies to choose from when visiting Wild Birds Unlimited. “We predominantly carry bird feeders, bird houses, bird baths and bird food — all kinds of food.” Customers will also find binoculars and a wide selection of bird- and non-bird related gift items.

Last year was especially profitable. She says, “It started in January when we had that record snowfall. So many people felt sympathetic to birds and really fed them a lot. A lot of robins got caught off guard because of that snow. A lot of people came in for mealworms, available live and freeze-dried.” With a business that’s very dependent on the weather, Kovalcik adds, “If we have a lot of snow it can be very busy, but spring in May can also be very busy because that’s when hummingbirds return, as well as the Baltimore orioles. People’s eyes pop out when they see that bird in their yard.”

Also a master gardener, Kovalcik says she understands from “a bird’s standpoint what they want in a yard.” She informs, “Some birds stay all year in this area. They would be seed eaters. Those that are insect eaters are the ones that migrate, but those that stay, who are insect eaters, will come to suet (a beef fat that’s been processed to remove impurities) feeders.

Asked which species of birds is her favorite, Kolvalcik admits she enjoys keeping a close eye on the raven. “It’s not even a bird that comes to a feeder, but because I’m a birdwatcher, it’s something I get to see when I’m out.”

Here, Kovalcik shares instructions for putting together a wreath to feed your feathered friends this winter season.

Detroit News Staff Writer Jocelynn Brown is a longtime Metro Detroit crafter. You can reach her at (313) 222-2150

Edible Wreath for Birds

Level : Beginner

Estimated time : 1 1/2 hours

Tools : Wire cutters, spoon

Supplies : One wire-framed wreath with greens attached in size of choice, juniper branches with berries intact, incense cedar branches with seeds intact, Michigan holly, pine cones, plain suet, safflower seed, several 12-inch pieces of floral wire, one roll of burlap ribbon

Instructions

1 . Snip ends of plant material to workable lengths, bind together with floral wire and attach to wreath by wrapping ends of wire firmly around wreath. Place holly closest to wreath, with incense cedar in front of holly and juniper in front of cedar.

2 . With plain suet at room temperature, spread it onto pine cones using tip of spoon.

3 . Then, press safflower seed into suet. (Note: using these ingredients, instead of peanut butter and oil/black sunflower, makes wreath squirrel-proof.) Wrap center of floral wire around end of pine cone, leaving two long tails of wire.

4 . Place pine cone in front of bunched-together plant material and attach to wreath by wrapping ends of wire around back of wreath and twisting to secure.

5 . Use burlap ribbon to make bows and attach to wreath with wire.

6 . Make a loop with small piece of wire and attach to wreath frame at top for hanging.

Contact Wild Birds Unlimited of Grosse Pointe Woods, 20381 Mack, at (313) 881-1410 or visit grossepointewoods.wbu.com.