AFA Visits - Frank Miser's Magnolia Bird Farm

Sheldon Dingle


I have often heard it said that the A.F.A. was formed to protect the backyard aviculrurist and that the commercial people could take care of themselves. In my opinion it is wrong to polarize the bird fancy into the commercial and the "pure." Everyone, including backyard breeders, who buys or sells even one bird is involved in commerce. The principle is the same, the main difference is volume and the fact that the professional dealer bought a business license, pays overhead, and pays taxes on his profits. It is almost impossible to find an aviculrural "purist" nor is there any special virtue attached to him if found.

In my opinion the A.F.A. has a responsibility to the bird industry as a whole and that businesses like Frank Miser's Magnolia Bird Farm are a very important part of the industry. Indeed, the health of American aviculture can in many ways be measured by the health of


the commercial bird trade. Responsible dealers buy the breeder's excess birds and are the source of new and different birds. The dealers bring various seeds and other necessaries from all pans of the world and present them in one place for the breeder's convenience. Consider the difficulties of doing this by yourself.

Birds are a big business now, along the lines of the horse and dog industries. Occasionally the "A.F.A. Visits" column will feature a professional businessman who deals in birds and bird related products. Just as I would not publish a visit to a beat-up backyard bedlam posing as an aviary so too I would not feature a business that I had any doubts about. I've never met a more fair and honest man than Frank Miser nor seen a bird business run cleaner and tighter. And Frank's been in business for a long time.

In fact, it was over 2 5 years ago that Miser got into the bird business by accident. In 1955 he and his girlfriend built


a 4' x 6' aviary and started breeding 13 budgies including the old house per. The aviary (situated on the very property where the new Magnolia Bird Farm now stands) began to produce babies and Frank began hauling them to Los Angeles where he received twenty five cents more per bird than the local marker offered. Soon he began hauling birds to L.A. for other breeders also, at a ten cents a head commission. After just a few trips Miser began bringing seed back from L.A. for his friends and neighbors. He made one dollar per 100 pounds.

To make a long story short, the day came when Frank was making almost daily trips to L.A. and selling seed from his girlfriend's house. All the while he was building more and more aviaries to hold birds in. Finally the day came when he called his boss and said that he was so busy with his hobby that he didn't have time to work.

By now the enterprising couple had married and bought the property from her parents. The fledgling bird business was a hand to mouth affair for quite a long rime with Frank borrowing money weekly to buy birds. He'd sell the birds and repay the loan the same day. Gradually the business built up and began covering its own expenses with a little left over.

The point is that the large, very successful business one sees today did nor just drop out of the sky into Miser's lap. He began with one flight and built the business up slowly. It has been an almost thirty year project.

At present Magnolia Bird Farm deals mainly in birds for the pet market-budgies, cockariels, finches, doves, pigeons, parrots, canariesspecies that you commonly find for sale


in pet stores. Of course a number of rare and expensive special birds can be found at Magnolia but the great volume is in the pet birds.

Seventy percent of the common birds are acquired from local southern California breeders, twenty percent are gotten from quarantine stations and ten percent are bred and raised on local bird farms owned by Frank Miser or Frank Jr. All of Magnolia's male singing canaries are raised on one of the farms.

One important thing Miser does is to insist that his local suppliers run a sanitary operation. He will help breeders learn how to monitor their flocks and to identify and treat common health problems. Once the birds arrive at Magnolia they are inspected and if they are accepted they are housed in clean outdoor aviaries and watched carefully. This is no small feat as there are normally 4000 birds on the premises with a turnover of 3000 per week.

Most of these birds are shipped to pet shops and jobbers all over the country. Many breeders also buy foundation stock from Magnolia. Miser is happy in the thought that he almost never loses a customer. He sells them quality birds at a low price-not cheap prices-and his customers are very satisfied.

If Miser's customers are happy it must be said that so are his employees. Among the 20 employees are a son, a daughter, a sister, a niece, and a cousin, but the reason they stay on has nothing to do with kinship-they are happy in their work. One employee has been there seventeen years and several have over ten years seruonry.

Even with large amounts of shipping, Miser says he has no shipping problems-no airline hassles, no dead arrivals. He ships an average of 60 orders per week totalling about 140 boxes. He calls each customer after each shipment to make sure there have been no problems.

Although Magnolia Bird Farm is well known all over the country Miser is not a big advertiser. Most of his customers have learned of him through word-ofmouth. He does have small ads in a number of avicultural journals but I think that's just another way he supports the various bird clubs and journals. Miser has always been very active in the local bird clubs and has developed over the years a reciprocal relationship with hundreds of California aviculturists. The breeders do much to supply Frank with birds and Magnolia Bird Farm has become the complete breeder's supply store stocking feed, seed, and all other supplies needed by a breeder.



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