The moment we met Jim Fowler, our childhood hero and recognizable zoologist, we knew we were in for a treat.
Fowler, a proud man who will forever be known as the star of Wild Kingdom, the longest-running wildlife show on television, made sure to bring his trademark safari jacket to meet us, even though it was a warm and balmy day at his home in Rowayton, Connecticut.
For those readers too young to have seen Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, Google Wild Kingdom and I guarantee you’ll spend hours watching clips of the show and find yourself mesmerized by the beauty of exotic places and fascinating animals Fowler and his co-host Marlin Perkins profiled.
Wild Kingdom increased ecological and environmental awareness in the U.S. The show’s exciting footage brought the wilds of Africa, the Amazon River, and other exotic locales into the living rooms of millions of viewers every Sunday night.
Fowler and Perkins were the pioneers in a genre that became the precursor to such shows as the Discovery Channel and Animal Planet that we know today.
The Jim Fowler Feeder
Immediately after arriving at Fowler’s home, we were immediately struck by his incredible bird feeder, made by his hand, placed conveniently in his backyard so he could sit on his veranda and enjoy watching birds, just a few feet away.
And sitting just 10 feet from the feeder, feathered friends were unfazed by our presence and kept dropping in for a quick bite.
It must have been the Jungle Jim Fowler magic touch and his ability to tame even the wildest animals.
Bird Feeders Attract Attention. And Not Just From Birds
“I get a lot of woodpeckers in here. I had a Red-bellied Woodpecker just a few minutes ago. My biggest problem is that Red-bellied Woodpeckers don’t have a red belly,” says Fowler, laughing with a warm smile. A sight we’d see and hear a great deal throughout our visit with him.
We gazed at what he calls the ‘Jim Fowler Feeder,’ a spectacular bird feeder structure that stands 11+ feet tall.
“You wouldn’t believe what comes here,” he says. “I’ve got a groundhog that comes out from over there, a bunch of squirrels and rabbits and a whole lot of birds.”
He’s proud that he’s seen all types of birds coming into the ‘Jim Fowler Feeder’ all morning.
Fowler designed and constructed the ‘Jim Fowler Feeder’ entirely of bamboo because it’s easy to work with and readily accessible. “I just drill it and bolt it, and it’s quite strong.”
Fowler’s Trick for Squirrel-proofing
The first iteration of Fowler’s feeder was designed to be a hanging feeder with two tunnels for bird feed. But some clever squirrels quickly made him rethink his design.
“A squirrel got up here and messed it up a little bit. But now I think I have the squirrels licked,” he says smiling.
He tried all kinds of things including a plexiglass barrier, but none of them worked.
Fowler even used drain pipes on the legs, and the squirrels climbed right up the pipes. Then he found his solution to squirrel-proof his feeder.
“I put vaseline on the top, and now they go up and slide right down. They just don’t know what to do,” he says with a chuckle.
He remarks that the vaseline doesn’t detract from the looks of the design, but it’s slippery for squirrels to climb.
What Birds Require
Fowler says most conventional bird feeders are made of metal that can be hung upside down, but his version is a high-rise platform.
“Being a zoologist and ornithologist, I know what birds require. They need a place to land.”
Conventional feeders are constructed with metal poles, and Fowler says, “That’s tough for birds.”
Fowler’s design includes one large feeding tray, two long tunnels held together with pipe clamps with low lander and high lander perches and a suet feeder hanging from a bamboo post.
He placed branches on top of the feeder to encourage birds to use the limb to descend into the feeder.
“I had a beautiful Woodpecker on the feeder, and he keeps going to the suet. The trick is that this design has lots of landing opportunities and the birds can come in and land just about anywhere,” he says.
So to attract birds to your feeder, heed Jungle Jim Fowler’s advice and make sure birds have a place to land.
Then you’ll see a flurry of activity at your bird feeder.
Read the second segment of Catching Up with Wild Kingdom’s Star Jim Fowler here