Watching outdoor birds landing at a bird feeder through a window can bring a smile to anyone's face. It's also rewarding to figure out the best seed combination for various bird species.
Did you ever wonder how cool it would be to have birds actually eat out of your hand? But that's something miracles are made of — isn't it? After all, one of the reasons Francis of Assisi earned sainthood in the 13-century was his ability to not only talk to the birds, he was also able to feed them from his hand.
Truth is — with a little patience, you too can have a variety of birds eating out of your hands . . . and you don't have to be a saint to do it.
Hand Training Birds
Some of the more inquisitive, less timid bird species are the easiest to train. They include the following:
The Colder the Better
As noted, while patience is key, it's better to train birds to eat from your hand in colder weather. That’s because the colder the temperatures, the better are your chances birds will accept your food offerings. So dress warmly and follow these instructions for the best results:.
- Birds and Blooms suggest in training birds to feed from your hands, attach a small container or feeder to a tree and fill it with sunflower seeds — the favorite food of friendly chickadees, nuthatches and titmice.
- Stock the feeder daily to keep the regular customers coming.
- Each day, stand a little closer to the feeder after you’ve filled it. Eventually, the birds will tolerate you standing right next to the feeder itself. Speak softly and gently to the birds as they land on the feeder.
- Now, instead of filling the feeder, remove the seed and fill a bowl or coffee mug with sunflower seeds and hold it near the feeder…then wait. Since the birds are accustomed to dining from the spot where you’re holding the container, it’s likely you’ll tempt a friend to hop aboard for a meal.
- Once the birds feed from the container you’re holding, you’re ready to try feeding them from your palm. Grab a handful of sunflower seeds and hold your hand flat and steady, right above the empty feeder.
Bird Food Offerings
The Humane Society suggest the following food offerings during the winter:
- Black-oil sunflower seed: high in fat so it provides good energy; seeds are small and thin-shelled enough for small birds to crack open.
- White Proso Millet: high in protein content.
- Peanuts: offer in tube-shaped metal mesh feeders designed for peanuts; use a feeder with smaller openings for peanut hearts.
- Suet cakes: commercially made suet cakes fit the standard-size suet feeder (you can even find vegetarian options).
- Nyjer seed: use a tube feeder with tiny holes to keep the seeds from spilling out.
- Cracked corn: choose medium-sized cracked corn, as fine will quickly turn to mush and coarse is too large for small-beaked birds.
With the training, you need to build trust. Birds like other wild animals are skeptical of humans. They need to know you are not a threat. Your initial visitors might test you first. They might move into close proximity and evaluate your offering. During this phase, stay calm and still. Soon, your new friends may flutter above you to test your reactions.
When you do gain trust, the bird may quickly snatch a single seed from your open palm and zip away quickly. But not to worry, it will come back — and when it does, it will stay longer and longer on each successive visit.
In certain locations throughout the U.S., there are some birds already conditioned to trust humans. Mendon Ponds Park in Rochester, New York is such a site.
The Quaker Pond trail is the place to go to find chickadees and other birds that will eat right out of your hand.
Black-oil sunflower seeds are what these birds like the best. They will take the seed and fly back to the bushes to open it as soon as they have it. The chickadees will stay on a person’s hand longer if they’re fed a mix of millet, corn and other ingredients. This video gives you an idea how easy it is to have birds eating out of the palm of your hand. And guess what, you didn't even have to rise to the lofty perch of sainthood to make this happen. Pretty cool, isn't?
Primary Source: Birds and Blooms