For Prairiemoon and other bird lovers

tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)February 11, 2014

I posted some pictures in another thread, but ran afoul of the thread's rules, so figured I'd start a new thread. Prairiemoon had mentioned that it must have taken a long time to hand tame the birds I posted pictures of, but it only takes minutes if you do it right and sort of put the bird's nature to work for you. I'll post some things I've learned about hand-taming birds that will allow you to train them to the hand in only a few minutes.

Two things first: 1) You can hand tame birds in the summer, but it's faster and easier in winter when insects are scarce and the birds need to keep their furnaces fed - when there is some snow cover. 2) The farther you are from a bird feeder the birds can easily flit to, the easier it will be.

The easiest way is to drill a hole in a can, fill it with sunflowers, and hang it on a nail or screw you drive into a tree (remove the fastener it when you're done) far from any bird feeders.

Leave it and return the next day. The birds will have found it and will be feeding or keeping an eye on the spot - even if the can is empty. When you return the next day, wear a hat that can hold SF seeds on the top or brim. Put a few seeds on the hat and lean against the tree so the seeds are as close to where the can was as possible. Lean against the tree & become a part of it. Don't move fast, and don't look directly at the birds. Avert your eyes by looking down or away & watching them with your peripheral vision at first. Later, you'll be able to walk around and talk normally & the birds will still come for their handouts.

The chickadees will be first. They're quite polite, so only 1 bird at a time will land on your hat. After at least several birds have become used to landing on your hat, there will be birds waiting in line. Then it's time to hold out your hand with seeds in it. Soon, you'll have birds all over waiting for their turn.

If you want to do it at home, the neighbors feeders will be a distraction unless they're at least 100-200 yds away, but it's still easily done. If you want to hand tame birds at home, limit yourself to 1 feeder for several days before you intend to tame them. When you're ready, take the feeder down and cover it with a cloth or put it in the garage. Lean against the tree the feeder was nearest with the seeds on your hat. If you're still, and follow the guidelines above, the chickadees will soon accept you as their newest benefactor and you'll be on your way.

Tits are more cautious and will become emboldened by the activity of the chickadees landing on you. Nuthatches are between chickadees & tits in how easy they are to tame. Chickadees and tits will eventually follow you everywhere, looking for their treats. Nuthatches are more selective in their approach. They won't fly directly to you and land directly on you. You must be within 'hopping' distance of a tree. The nuthatches will land well above you and hop down the tree (sometimes below and hop upward), and from the tree they'll hop onto you, so for nuthatches to land on you, you should lean on a tree or stand very close to a tree. They'll take to hopping on your hat the fastest.

Hold your hand under your chin & the birds will take seeds from between your lips. Pinch a seed so tightly the bird can't dislodge it from between your thumb/forefinger and you can watch it peel the husk and extract the kernel in very intimate detail. Photo ops are practically unlimited. I hope you try it - it's soo rewarding.


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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Al, well this is a treat! I visited a local nature area one year and my husband and I were amazed to see the chickadees eating out of the hand of one of the employees who fills the feeders I guess. I thought it must take a lot of time to get them to trust you like that. The way you've explained it, it sounds a whole lot easier than I thought it was.

I can imagine that it is quite rewarding to get that close to a bird and have them eating out of your hand. Isn't it interesting how birds have such different personalities too. I can't imagine a cardinal or a blue jay doing that, but a chickadee seems like the kind of bird who would. :-)

Great photos! That last one shows that section of sort of beige feathers, I thought they were all black and white. So cute!

Thanks for posting this!

    Bookmark   February 11, 2014 at 6:17PM
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Thanks, Al! This sounds like it would be fun to try.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2014 at 8:54PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

I know Babs, I'd like to try it too. That's a great suggestion too, to try it in the winter when there is less food available. If I ever get out of the house again before spring, I'd love to try it. [g]

    Bookmark   February 11, 2014 at 9:00PM
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There is a place down in Provincetown where the birds come eat out of your hands. It's at one of the parking lots for the Provicnetown path bike loop. There is a little boardwalk off the parking lot. You just go stand there with seed in your hand and birds come eat. I've had chickadees, red and white breasted nuthatches and titmice all eating out of my hand. It's become one of the things we do every year when we go to the Cape. In fact birdseed and purell are on my permanent Cape packing list. I'm freaked out enough about possible germs and disease from the birds eating out of my hand so I know I would never attempt letting a bird eat out of my mouth. That bit sounds a bit creepy to me.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2014 at 7:18AM
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claireplymouth z6b coastal MA

I think I'd pass on the birds eating out of my mouth too, but this sounds like a really good protocol for training the birds to eat out of your hand.

Although sometimes you wonder who trained who - chickadees can be very manipulative (hey guys, look at what I trained the human to do! Dinner is hand-delivered!).


    Bookmark   February 12, 2014 at 1:24PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

The birds aren't actually 'eating out of my mouth'. They land on my hand and pluck a single sunflower seed from between my lips. Of course, that neat photo op isn't mandatory ....... whatever you're comfortable with, or not.

Individual birds of a species don't seem to vary much in personality, excepting how aggressively individuals defend their territory, there's variance in that, and nuthatches seem to be most territorial of the birds I've fed from hand. Even they relax though, in their tendency to chase away competitors when there are plenty of sunflower seeds in the offing. Different species are blessed with often markedly different behavioral traits, though.

I'm one of those people not bothered by cold. We've had week after week of sub-zero night lows and daytime highs of 20* or lower, yet I've never worn anything warmer than a duck vest with a flannel lining ..... except when I run the snow blower - THEN I wear a coat to stay dry. I can endure the cold, but not so much when I'm wet. I said all that so I can say that I just walk out in the back yard and feed the birds whenever I want w/o much concern for the weather - though you won't find me out in the rain feeding the birds and enduring what Mother Nature dishes out with the same stoicism as that of a cow standing in the rain. It's fun, but not THAT much fun.


    Bookmark   February 12, 2014 at 3:02PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Al, is that a jade plant in the top of an acorn? That is very cute! I would never have had that idea of trying to plant something in the top of an acorn. I guess it goes along with the bonsai interest that you have. Will it be able to maintain itself in that amount of soil?

I have a BIL who is hot all the time too. He was in construction and was usually happy in a heavy shirt and vest all winter too. He was always moving and working and he was also very muscular and I think that makes a big difference. You sound like a very active guy too. :-)

    Bookmark   February 12, 2014 at 4:52PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

It's a mini jade, Portulacaria afra, and I often use plantings like that as accessory plants to bonsai on display. It does fine in the cap for 6 months to a year, then the cap breaks up and I toss it or give it away. The little cactus in the pot, pot and all, is only about the size of a nickel.

The heat doesn't bother me either. I'll be outdoors all day in the sun at 90* and I'm fine at days end if I drink enough water. I sweat a lot in the heat, but I don't wilt. I'm pretty active for my age, but not as active as my wife. Here's a picture of her:

Later ....


    Bookmark   February 12, 2014 at 5:02PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

You are very lucky to be able to tolerate cold and heat. I can dress for the cold, but I definitely wilt in the heat. I think it is unusual for someone to have so little trouble with temperature. You are not over 60 years old, are you? :-)

That cactus is the size of a nickel? I would not have figured that. I'd like to see that nickel in the photo with it. How do they even make a pot that small? They must have tiny fingers.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2014 at 5:13PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Lol - how old do you THINK I am? Look at the cactus picture again & look at the knap on the terry towel under the pot to give some perspective. I THOUGHT I took a pic with a dime leaning against the pot, but I can't find it or I deleted it.

Monkey-face orchid

Japanese maple in mother/daughter style

a pot o' pilea

winter landscape - our pool

something nice - it's an impatiens

4'+ leaves on castor bean



    Bookmark   February 12, 2014 at 5:49PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

I find lately I guess everyone on GW is my age, for some odd reason. I am always so surprised to find out they are much younger. [g] You're probably in your twenties…lol.

I love all your photos. The monkey plant really does look like a monkey face. And another very small pot with pilea. So well cared for and pruned to perfection. You’ve made the impatiens look very exotic in that pot with the unusual pruning. And I’ve never grown castor bean, but I’ve never seen any that large on GW. How did you get them so big? I keep looking at your ‘winter landscape’ and can’t stop laughing at the one penguin knocking the other one into the water. lol

My favorite though is the Japanese Maple. That is yours, right? It is a beauty! I don’t know how anyone can grow something that well. I would not have the patience or the skill to do that. It is a perfect shape. I love it!

    Bookmark   February 12, 2014 at 6:19PM
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