If you enjoy birdwatching, you might like to get a little closer to wild birds by getting a few to feed out of your hand. The process isn’t easy and will take at least a couple of weeks. It helps if you don’t mind acting like a tree. But the first time you hear the gentle sound of the wind in a bird’s wings as it lands on your palm and then touches your skin with its tiny claws, all the hard work will be worth it. Here’s what to do:
- Establish a feeding area near trees where birds can perch on branches while deciding whether or not to take your seed. Make sure that the area is free of ground cover that might allow cats to hide and stalk the birds while they are feeding.
- Feed birds at around the same time every day. Put out just enough seed to attract a consistent number of birds. Don’t put out so much that there are leftovers from one day to the next. If possible, place a birdbath in the area of your feeding station.
- Offer seeds that are irresistible to the species of birds you are trying to attract. For example, Blue Jays, Chickadees and Red-Breasted Nuthatches enjoy black oil sunflower seeds. I find there are always seeds in wild bird mixes that many birds won’t eat. Leftovers are likely to attract rodents. Seed that becomes wet may develop mold which can become toxic and deadly to the birds you are trying to feed.
- Accept the fact that some birds, such as Blue Jays, are more skittish and wary of humans than others. A couple of birds that are fairly easy to attract are chickadees and nuthatches.
- As birds become accustomed to visiting your feeding station, try standing still among them as they are feeding. Wear the same jacket each time. Move quietly in and out of the area without making any sudden gestures or loud noises.
- Once birds begin to expect seed at a particular time, stand in the area with an outstretched hand while holding seed. You can also place seed on the arm of your jacket. Do not put seed anywhere else in the feeding station.
- If birds are reluctant to take feed from your hand, after about 5 minutes, place the seed somewhere else in the feeding area and stand nearby. It may take a week or so for them to become comfortable enough to take the feed directly from your hand. Building trust with wild animals is never easy. However, once one brave little bird decides to trust you, others will follow suit.
- Once a few birds become accustomed to taking seed from you, they will then feed from the hands of other people in your feeding station as well, just as long as they also move slowly and quietly.
Be patient and good luck. Like humans, some birds are more comfortable taking risks than others. These are the ones that are easiest to tame. Others will follow their example. Seeing a little wild bird up close will make you hold your breath. Did I already mention that the process wasn’t easy and you had to be patient?
Adopt the pace of nature. Her secret is patience. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
Photo credit: Trevor Gertridge ~ All rights reserved.