Everything You Need to Know About Hand-Feeding Birds

Wednesday, February 22, 2023
Hand-feeding birds is a thrilling experience that makes us all feel closer to nature. If you already feed birds in your backyard, it won't take you too long to get here. If you try offering something extra delicious, such as mealworms, it'll be no time before you have the forever curious (and brave) Chickadees, checking it out and coming in for a snack. We have seen Ontario Birds by WBU Barrie and WBU Newmarket members be able to hand-feed Nuthatches, Pine Siskins, Downy Woodpeckers and more. 

Downy Woodpecker feeding from hand. Photo by Kristen Martyn. 

How do you start? 

  • It's best to place yourself in a place where you already see bird activity regularly. Birds find new food sources by sight, so you want to be where they already anticipate finding food. 
  • Offer a 'high reward' food - if you're near your own feeders, try offering something even better than what they can find there, such as mealworms or BarkButter Bits. 
  • Be patient - it can take some time to get birds used to this, you're most likely to see chickadees warm up to you first, which often emboldens other birds. 
  • Stay relatively still - do your best to be a tree! 

Chickadee coming for some mealworms out of hand. Photo by Kristen Martyn. 

This is such a great thing to try over March Break with the kids and can really ignite a love of nature and birds. Before you know it, the birds will be completely used to you and readily treat your hand like a feeder. 

Chickadees debating over a hand feed. Photo by Kristen Martyn. 

We hope you try this and experience the truly special feeling that is having a bird land on your hand. 



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