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June 2, 2016

By Brent Weinmann and Todd Regan

Why is the number of bird owning households declining while overall pet ownership is increasing? Can this downward trend in bird keeping be reversed?

The Bird Enjoyment & Advantage Koalition (BEAK) is composed of companies in the pet industry that specialize in supporting responsible bird ownership. These leaders have recognized the unique role that birds play in the lives of responsible bird owners.

The current landscape shows certain segments of pet ownership on the rise in the past several years or even decades. But conversely, bird ownership has been on the decline. BEAK was formed earlier this year because there is a serious need to analyze why this category is not growing at the same rate as other pet types. We are working with other leaders to take a comprehensive look into important factors including supply and demand, changing lifestyles and consumer habits.

The founders of BEAK presently include bird product manufacturers and associations who are providing the financial support needed to work with Wakefield, a highly respected research firm, that will help us better focus our efforts. Our collective goal is to generate awareness and ultimately increase responsible bird ownership, but we need to first know who it is we should be reaching out to and what messaging best resonates with that specific audience.

So far, we are already being armed with some pretty eye-opening information. For example, we know from the first phase of our research that millennials are important within the pet sector, but it does not appear that millennials are as important within the pet bird sector. Millennials without kids, Gen Xers and the boomer generation are all less interested in pet birds than the general public overall.

What we have found in the first phase of research is that over half of current bird owners would strongly consider purchasing another bird. In fact, they are 244 times more likely than general consumers to purchase another pet bird. Present bird owners understand bird ownership and are very open to having more pet birds.

BEAK’s initial research also emphasizes the need to get our messages to parents with young children. Our research has already identified a special opportunity among dads, Latino parents and parents in urban areas. Among parents, dads are more likely to consider a pet bird for their family. In addition, because of smaller homes, less outdoor space, closer neighbors and potentially restrictive pet policies in buildings, consumers in urban areas are more likely to consider pet birds compared to suburban or rural residents.

We have also found that these parents become very strong advocates of bird ownership. Two out of three parents (68 percent) who have birds as pets would recommend them to friends and family. It can be anticipated that their children will grow up knowing how much their own childhood benefited from the experience of a pet bird in their household.

BEAK is now entering the second phase of its research, which will focus on the target groups we identified and conduct message testing among them. Message testing will help us find the top reasons for getting a bird as a pet, identify sensitivities about bird ownership and enumerate the benefits of adding a bird to the home. We also want to dive deeper into caring for a bird. We are looking to find additional responsible bird owners who will help relay our message to new potential bird owners.

BEAK’s goal is to increase bird ownership beyond 6.7 million households by 2020 and ensure that new bird owners are aware of the needed care, handling and responsibilities of a variety of avian species. There is a need to take the time to ensure that a new bird is matched to the right type of specific home environment.

We know that birds are smart, beautiful and entertaining creatures that have many positive characteristics. We want to do this the right way, starting with BEAK’s goal to help make birds a healthy and thriving part of all of our businesses.

We invite all interested parties to work with us to help grow responsible bird ownership in the United States and Canada. For more information about how you can get engaged with BEAK, please contact Steve Hellem, BEAK’s Executive Director at (202) 441-0942. We are always looking for additional support so we can further spread our wings.

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