After spending well over a decade as an editor on a pet bird publication (RIP Bird Talk!), I witnessed bird products come and go via the ads run in the magazine. When I first started, at the bottom of the editorial masthead as an assistant editor, it was a time when the magazine had its most robust assortment of advertisements. The bigger, full-page ads were usually cage manufactures and food companies, and then came the half-page, quarter-page ads and so on for perches and playgyms, toys and then various cage accessories. Part of my job as assistant editor was to proofread the classified ads, which were the smaller ads in the back of the magazine. This is where one was most likely to come across an advertisement that was a bit more “unique,” and a couple of ads still stand out in my mind in terms of “uniqueness.”
First up, was an ad to help you determine the sex of your pet bird. But it wasn’t a DNA test kit — no feather or drop of blood from your bird that you sent off to a lab for testing. This ad was for a pendulum that you hung over your bird and waited to see which way it swung to determine whether your bird was male or female. I did some Googling and found a post that captured the ad’s wording, which was: DETERMINE THE SEX OF YOUR BIRD IN SECONDS…with a simple pendulum device. Weighs less than an ounce. Small enough to fit in your shirt pocket. Never touches the bird. 100% money-back guarantee. For your sex indicator and instruction pamphlet, send $15 to …” I believe it was a similar novelty item that is marketed for expectant parents — if the pendulum swings in a strong circular motion, it’s a “she”; if it moves back and forth, it’s a “he.” I never got to try one of these out on my birds, but I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have been able to get a reading anyway, as my birds generally dislike anything moving overhead.
A Wild Wild-Bird Feeder
There was also an advertisement for a wild-bird feeder that was like none other, and it always caused me to smile when it appeared in the magazine. It was a small ad but it had a product photo included, which made it especially standout. This product trained wild birds to eat straight from your hand. To make that happen, you started with the life-size cardboard cutout photo of a guy — he had a name like “Chuck” or “Bob” — and he wore a real hat and shirt (if I remember correctly, both hat and shirt were red and black checkered flannel). The dummy guy’s flat cardboard hands were propped up so you could place some birdseed in them. If memory serves, he was built for sitting and so the idea was to leave this dummy man in a chair in your yard or garden and, in a few days or so, the wild birds would feel safe sitting on his hands to feast. After the birds were used to eating from the dummy man’s hands, you would then switch places with the dummy by putting on his hat and shirt and sitting in his spot. Every now and then companies would send us product samples to test out (unsolicited) and whenever the magazine received a large-sized parcel, I hoped that it might contain our very own cardboard guy bird feeder to test out. I yearned to see dummy feeder dude sitting outside the editorial office, wild birds feasting on his steady, flat cardboard hands, so that I could then put on the flannel hat and shirt and announce to my boss, “Heading out to feed the wild birds.” Unfortunately, that day never came.
In all seriousness, over the years, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting quite a few of the people behind the companies that make the products we and our birds enjoy and, for most, a lot of blood, sweat and tears go into making them. Likewise, I’ve had the opportunity to visit a large sampling of avian specialty stores. Ask the owner or manager of your favorite bird store why they do what they do, and here’s what you’re likely to hear, “I didn’t get into this for the money, I do it for the birds!” Take a close look at your bird’s favorite food, toy, perch, playgym, etc., there’s a good chance that a lot of hard work and craftsmanship — powered by a true love of birds — went into making it.