I-Team 8

Indiana songbirds still dying; store emphasizing education

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Wild Birds Unlimited says it’s been difficult to watch and hear about the hundreds of songbirds dying in Indiana and across the country.

They tell I-Team 8 while it’s had an impact on business, it hasn’t changed their mission to educate their customers as much as they can.

“We’re definitely seeing less people walking through the doors, no question about it,” Wild Birds Unlimited Chief Naturalist John Schaust said. “But that’s alright, in the sense of, we’ve got to do what’s right for the birds right now.”

The company is providing handouts with a list of what to do and not to do from the Department of Natural Resources. They also keep their website updated with the latest information on the songbird deaths from videos from the National Wildlife Federation and articles from Cornell University experts.

 “That’s always been a huge part of our marketing, is not just product, product, product, it’s been education,” Schaust said.

Store manager Gina Jannaso tells I-Team 8 some customers don’t come to the store to buy products but just to learn more about what they can do to help.

“They come to us as the local expert to help, help figure out, like, what’s going on? What can we do to help the birds?” Jannaso said.

She says customers feel heartbroken they can’t do more as many made birding a hobby during the pandemic.

“That interaction with us might have been there only time out that day [during the pandemic] just to come pick up the bird food,” Jannoso said.

While 76 Indiana counties can now resume bird feeding, many still cannot. There has been no cause announced yet on what exactly is causing the songbirds to die as many bird lovers try to stay patient.

“It’s not about the business,” Schaust said. “It’s about the birds.”

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