Hand Feeding Wild Birds

Hand-Feeding-3It is such a delight when a Chickadee trusts you enough to land on your hand to take seed. They are so light, like they are not even there. If you never did this, read on…

Hand-Feeding-1Two things necessary to getting them to take such a chance, is getting them to accept you in their space and for you to stay very still. Trust happens from both.

Hand-Feeding-2The best time to do this is when snow is on the ground or when a storm is looming. Birds go bonkers when it is snowing, especially at the feeders. I hand-feed in the morning before filling the feeders for the day. Try it with Downy Woodpeckers too. I am often within inches of them at their feeders.

The birds have come to know me in the garden, so getting them to land on my hand was a piece of cake. Getting them to do it in the wild is for one to have real patience.

Hand-Feeding-6Either place, talk to them softly. Once they are accustomed, put food in your hand and offer it very still. They come because they are hungry, not because they like you, but it still is nice to know they can trust you.

Even though it will make you smile when they come in close, try not to. Birds look at our facial expressions for cues, and showing them your teeth, swallowing or opening your mouth can make them fearful like we are having them for dinner. I think talking to them or making birds calls is different in that they may view us as contented.

Hand-Feeding-4A bird may approach fearfully, but stay very still and hold your breath as long as you can. They eventually will trust you enough to grab some seed.

Hand-Feeding-1-7Titmice and chickadees are the easiest to hand feed because of their curiosity.ย  Also, the Mourning Doves are an easy species to offer seed.

These birds are those I photograph at the Falls. They are very used to me feeding them for my photos, even following me up the wooded path back to my Jeep. It did take a while to get them acclimated to my presence though. Patience… not my strong suit.

Happy birding…

About Garden Walk Garden Talk

I love to photograph, paint, draw, design, garden, travel the world, and pass on a few tips and ideas that I learned through experience as a Master Gardener and architect. I am highly trained in my field and enjoy my work each and every day. I garden in Niagara Falls, NY in zone 6-B. Find me at: http://gardenwalkgardentalk.com
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40 Responses to Hand Feeding Wild Birds

  1. swo8 says:

    Oh that would be so neat. Thanks for all the tips, Donna. I’ll give it a try – must get some bird seed first.

  2. Wow – I didn’t even know wild birds would trust people enough to eat from an outstretched hand. Great pictures!

  3. alesiablogs says:

    I don’t have enough snow but if I do I can tell a difference in the air for sure .
    Hope you are well . You must have missed my note about my card because you didn’t respond . I think WP messes replys up. Take it easy and stay warm!!

  4. germac4 says:

    Great photos of your birds as always .. They look so clear I almost feel I can touch them.. Quite beautiful!

  5. sevenroses says:

    wow sounds like luring magic to our hands and heart

  6. arlene says:

    Such lovely photos Donna.

  7. That is quite amazing! I do feel that birds know me as the filler of the feeders. When the feeders are empty and I am out filling them I hear them begin chatting as if they are saying thank you or sharing with their friends that the food has been replenished.

  8. Whose hand was that? If it was yours, how did you get the shot?

  9. That’s amazing, Donna, for so many reasons. First, you are very patient! Second, how did you take the photos at the same time you were feeding them?! Wow. The Chickadees around here are very tame, and often stay very near and chirp at me when I walk by or fill the feeders. Sometimes, I feel like I really could reach out and touch them, they are so close. I did try to feed them in my hand one time, but it was during the summer and they didn’t seem very interested–preferring the seeds in the feeder nearby. They are such sweet, tough little birds. ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. Fascinating information, Donna. The movement in your photos and facial expressions of the birds are astonishing. I’m curiousโ€ฆ In one photo the bird is eating from a gloved hand โ€“ is there a difference in their comfort level between a gloved hand and a bare hand, do you think?
    P.S. Did you actually take the photos with your left hand while feeding the birds with your right hand?!

    • Thank you. I feed birds without gloves, but maybe if is because I and others feed them so often they are comfortable. No I was photographing another feeding the birds. I have set my camera on a tripod and chickadees will land on the lens. Then a cell phone comes in handy for an image.

  11. What a beautiful thing to do! I imagine standing stock-still waiting for a bird to land on your hand is quite meditative. Happy new year!

  12. I love how you do this, Donna. Having no tolerance for cold, I wont be trying it, but enjoy your pictures enormously. Have a very happy New Year. Maybe 2017 will be the year you swing by my garden on one of your visits to PA? P. x

  13. Karen says:

    I’ve gotten chipmunks to eat from my hand and even touched them but never a bird. I hope you have a wonderful New Year.

  14. Denise says:

    Wonderful! I don’t think I could ever hold my breath long enough.

  15. afarawayhome says:

    This would be amazing – definitely worth the effort, if only I had the time! I love your comments about smiling, swallowing etc., I guess I’d also be worried if something much bigger than me thought I looked like a tasty snack ๐Ÿ™‚

  16. Arden Zich says:

    I’m jealous. I’ve been feeding our locals for over 8 years, and not only do they scatter each and every time the door opens, hardly anyone will come back to eat even when I’ve sat many feet away, as silent and as still as a statue. As soon as I’m back inside, the party’s back on. In my experience, the tiniest are the bravest (as well as some young ones that don’t know better). The closest I’ve come is having an excited chickadee land in the tree while I was still hooking up the feeder (quickly took off again) and one brave little hummingbird that sized me up for 4 seconds before landing on the feeder. For now, my Snow White fantasy of hand feeding these guys remains a dream.

  17. bittster says:

    What a great experience. I’ve always wanted to do the same here but just don’t have the patience, plus the birds seem quite content to pass me for the feeder!
    I used to visit a park where the birds were trained to come to your hand. It was such an amazing feeling the first time we visited, and we were so enthralled I didn’t even realize just how cold we got until we were back in the car.
    Happy New Year!

  18. debsgarden says:

    Happy New Year, Donna! My Aunt Irene, who passed away some years ago, was one who had the knack for hand-feeding birds. She once wrote me a letter telling how one of her regular customers showed up with his whole family! I am afraid I lack the patience. I think you are of a kindred spirit with my aunt.

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