It Doesn’t Have To Be A Struggle
If you ask a person who’s been feeding birds for a while about getting them to hand feed, you’ll either get a bewildered look or one of “you poor person.” That’s because if they’ve read anything about hand feeding birds they’ve been told how long it will take and how patient you have to be. I’ve been experimenting with hand feeding for a few years now and I’m going to tell you it doesn’t have to be that way. Yes, it’s true that some birds and species will never hand feed. However, I believe you can have success at hand feeding birds without spending hours sitting out in the cold.
My Hand Feeding Method
Before I get to the list, let me start out by saying that this method works best for titmice. I’ve read from Hugh Wiberg’s Hand Feeding Book that chickadees are also very receptive but I have not had much success with them and this method. If you don’t have any titmice in your backyard, you’ll need to adjust it to suit the other birds you’re trying to hand feed.
- Get hulled peanuts or peanut pieces. It’s best to present something they don’t get all the time BUT that they do recognize and love. Be flexible and try other food if peanuts don’t work.
- Pay attention to your feeders and when they are the busiest. Most guides will tell you first thing in the morning but it doesn’t have to be then. I go out briefly at lunch time.
- Take down ALL feeders and place them near to you. Otherwise, the crafty titmice will find them on the ground and feed from them.
- Get a lawn chair and start out sitting at least 10 feet from a main feeder station.
- Sit very still. Repeat, very still.
- Stare forward and do not follow any birds that land on your feeder pole to stare you down. Most will fly back into the trees but not all will.
- Just because you can’t hear anything do not assume nobody’s watching. Repeat…sit still.
- If after 15 minutes or so you have nobody landing on the feeder pole or the ground, move back another few feet and repeat sitting still.
- By this time you will have had some birds landing on the ground and taking dropped seeds at least. If not, give it another 15 minutes and then leave.
- Tomorrow, start by sitting or standing 15 feet away. There should be increased traffic near the feeder station.
- Each day you should try to move a little closer until activity slows down again. When this happens, move back a step and repeat step 5.
- Try to repeat this process at the same time each day. You will become a part of their routine and you will see more curious birds landing near you. Eventually, one of them WILL land on your hand.
- Try not to jerk or react when they do land which can be hard the first few times. Especially, if they blindside you and land on your hand from behind you.
- Finally, accept that not all birds will feed from your hand. MOST probably won’t. However, the few that do will make it all worthwhile. 🙂
I hope you find this shortcut guide to hand feeding your backyard birds helpful. With winter upon us in North America, chances for getting birds to hand feed go up dramatically. Also, please let me know what you think of my method after you’ve tried it. Just because it’s worked for me doesn’t mean it will work the exact same for everyone. I’d really like to hear any changes you made that worked. Please leave me a comment below and tell me about them.