New Kamloops hobbyists finding joy in birdwatching and feeding

Birdwatching takes flight

A new hobby has risen in popularity for many who have been sticking closer to home, according to business owner and bird enthusiast Kurtis Huston.

Huston, owner of Wild Birds Unlimited Kamloops, said he has seen an increase of interest in bird feeding and birdwatching this year.

"Bird feeding is the new binge watching," Huston said.

"I'm involved in quite a few local B.C. bird feeding Facebook pages, and as soon as the pandemic hit, these bird feeding pages massively increased in followers. The page likes were doubling, and the engagement was quadrupling."

Huston said the bird suppliers have seen so much demand for bird seed, they are struggling to keep up.

For Huston, the enthusiasm has been welcoming, and not just because he enjoys seeing people take to the hobby. Huston hopes to open a new Wild Birds Unlimited franchise in Kamloops, but he said COVID-19 has caused major challenges.

"When I first was approved for the loan to start this business was when the lockdowns began," he said.

"I had to pause the process, the loan was then cancelled, and I had to go through an entire re-approval process with an updated business plan that involved curbside pickup, online orders, and COVID precautions as well. So it's been challenging, but it's been a very educating process as well."

Huston said he is currently searching for a brick-and-mortar location for the franchise in town, and that in the interim, support for his future storefront from Kamloops hobbyists has been both positive and overwhelming.

"It's been really interesting to see the hobby grow so much over the past year, especially going through this process. It doesn't take all the nerves away, but it definitely alleviates some of the nervousness going into this business."

Huston said he believes interest in the hobby is growing because of the joy people receive from a connection with nature.

"People are really seeking a distraction these days, and bird feeding really provides the perfect distraction," he said.

"Simply just being able to focus on the joy of bird feeding is, I think, what is really attracting to most people."

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