A bird in the hand

The Feather Factor with Sherry Lidstone

I’ll never forget the sheer excitement I felt the first time a bird accepted a seed from my hand. It was a Black-capped Chickadee. So tiny and light I barely felt its weight, just the slight tickle of its little feet on my outstretched palm.

It took a lot of patience on my part but well worth every minute!

Much of my free time (of which I had a lot of way back then) was spent sketching, photographing and making friends with the birds.

As a result of this new found passion, I was able to amaze family and friends with my taming talents.

In order to save you hours of trial and error, here are a few tips that may help you along.

First, you need to establish a routine the birds will associate with food.

Wearing the same clothes or hat and feeding at the same time each day helps; you’ll soon be considered an unthreatening part of the landscape.

I always wore a pink, flowery dress to feed the hummingbirds (Rufus and Calliope) and have had up to 40 of them hovering all around me, even following my dress and I in to the house to fill the feeders. My kitchen would be buzzing with hummers flitting around the room until I was done. They would then follow me back outside to hang up the feeders, some even feeding from the ports as we went.

Is it any wonder hummingbirds are my favorites!

Trying to take pictures of these little jewels was next to impossible. Not only would they not cooperate and sit still long enough for a photo, they would land all over me and my camera.

Making a distinct sound, singing or whistling when you set out to fill the feeders can act as a dinner bell and in time the birds will hopefully recognize you as a food source.

Try and stand or sit near your feeder as often as possible to allow the birds to become accustomed to your presence (10-15 minutes per day).

After a few weeks of this, remove all the food from the feeder except for a small amount in one corner. Stand by this corner and lay your seed filled hand flat on the feeder – and wait.

When a bird arrives, speak softly and avoid sudden movements. Even turning your head to look can frighten them, as will staring them in the eyes. Swallowing is also something you should try and avoid; it may serve as a warning to the bird that you could be a predator. I am usually so preoccupied when a bird is in my hand, I tend to forget to breath let alone swallow!

Eventually (don’t give up!) as more birds come to your hand, move farther away from the feeder until they come to you no matter where you are in the yard.

Several summers ago, the resident flock of Pine Siskins were so used to seeing hubby and I hunched over weeding in the garden they would often land on our backs and heads. While we found this amusing, not all the guests to our home did.

One unsuspecting visitor, when perched upon by half a dozen of the tiny creatures produced such a look of terror I was certain Alfred Hitchcock’s horror flick The Birds was flashing through his mind!

Hand taming can be enjoyed by all ages, requiring little more than patience and a handful of seed.

Remember though, never try to catch a bird that has learned to trust you – it may never come back again.

Until next time, Happy Birding!