How to Hand Feed Birds

It's a very special feeling to have a wild bird eat out of your hand, and I'd love for everyone to have this experience. I go to a park with friendly birds, but many people have been able to get their backyard birds hand feeding. I have collected some tips on how to do this, which I'd like to share with you below. 

 

The No-Prop Setup

Stand or sit by your feeder with food in your outreached hand. This is to get the birds used to your presence; they will mostly likely not feed from your hand quite yet. On a day when your feeder is particularly busy, temporarily take your feeder down so the only option is the food in your hand. 

The Prop Setup

Set up a mannequin or use PVC pipe to build a human shape in a chair using your clothes. One day swap out places with the mannequin, clothes and all. 

 
A setup using PVC pipe. A Downy Woodpecker is feeding from the right glove. Sitting in the same spot with the same clothes, including the hat. 
Photos by Michael Hinkel

  

Wear Sunglasses

Wearing sunglasses hides your eye movement, which can spook birds.

Timing

If there is bad weather coming, or it's during migration, you will have more active feeding and more opportunities to feed the birds. 

Birds will also be more apt to feed out of your hand during the Winter months when there is less food available.  The colder temperatures will cause the birds to eat more to maintain their body temperature.

What Food to Offer

I've found shelled peanuts to be a big hit, along with shelled sunflower seeds. 

Types of Birds

If you have Chickadees in your yard, these smart birds will mostly likely be the first to try eating from your hand. Gray Jays are another bold and inquisitive bird that will check out your hand-held food offerings.

Birds that I have hand fed here in Michigan: Black-capped Chickadees, Tufted Titmouses, White-breasted Nuthatches, Downy Woodpeckers, Mourning Doves, Northern Cardinals, and Red-bellied Woodpeckers.

 

I hope that helps! If you'd like to have any tips added to this page, please drop me an email at jocelynandersonphotgraphy@gmail.com.