Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Little Bird Feet, Litle Bird Trust

Indigo Bunting (see Alphabird at right) recently wrote about the experience of hand feeding wild birds. I started to comment on it, but my comment got so long that I figured I'd better put it here instead.

One winter in the early 1970s I read a book called Hand-Taming Wild Birds at the Feeder, by Alfred G. Martin. I was living alone in the country during the week, with lots of time on my hands to devote to this project. It seemed like an impossible undertaking. But the author said if you followed his instructions (which involved patience and cold hands) you would succeed. He was right. Of course, a chickadee was the first brave bird to eat out of my hand. It wasn't long before many others, including whole flocks of evening grosbeaks, followed suit.

I would go outside and call, "Come get your seed!" in a high voice, and they would land on my arms, my shoulders, my head. I think the biggest surprise (and thrill) was when a flock of migrating redpolls landed on me. They were just passing through, but apparently decided the resident birds knew what they were doing, and as a feeding station, I was okay.

I'm so sorry I can't do this at my present home. I didn't get started when we first moved here (I was busy being pregnant and raising toddlers), and now my Raynaud's is so bad that standing outside with a bare hand is out of the question. I'll never forget the feeling of little bird feet, though. Little bird feet and little bird trust.

7 comments:

Cedar Waxwing said...

Oh Susan, I'm envious of that experience! I've never even seen a redpoll!

I'll have to pick that book up, even though I'm in your shoes (or gloves might be the better term) with the Reynaud's and we don't exactly live in the country.

mm said...

I love this post Susan. I loved Indigo's too. I had the patience for this when I was a kid, and had no trouble getting the chickadees to land. I didn't have much success with other birds, though. Once I saw a blue jay eying me from high in a tree directly above where I stood. It finally decided to go for it, and dropped like a stone (with a fierce looking beak). I pulled my hand away, and it flew off.

The bird I miss most (we've had this discussion before) is the evening grosbeak, damn their nomadic hearts. Imagine you taming a whole flock of them!

Indigo Bunting said...

Oh my gosh, evening grosbeaks? And redpolls! Lovely! I believe my hand-feeding experience beyond chickadees extends only to titmice and nuthatches.

Tim gave me a book for Xmas, Hugh Wiberg's Hand-feeding Backyard Birds. Admittedly, with what little time I've had to read, I've only looked at the photos so far. And yes, Raynaud's hampers things a bit for me too, although my feet are worse than my hands...

I wish I had a lifestyle that would allow time to be the birdfeeder like that!

JHK said...

I've always wished for that experience.

Susan said...

Hi everyone--thanks! No reason why you can't do it, JHK, unless, of course, you have Raynaud's, too. I hope not!

MM, I'm sure I would have pulled my hand away, too. And I'm not a child (most of the time).

crystal said...

Once a parakeet sat on my finger, so I kind of remember how little bird feet feel :-) Once felt a goose's feet too - they were warm!

Susan said...

Hi Crystal - That surprises me (about the goose feet). I'll have to ask my friend if her duck has warm feet. The duck sleeps with her, so she should know.