Tuesday, March 2, 2010

A Bird in the hand

I’ll never forget the excitement I felt the first time a chickadee accepted a seed from my hand.
It took a lot of patience on my part but well worth every minute.
Much of my free time (of which I had a lot of way back when) was spent sketching, photographing & making friends with the birds.
As a result of this new found passion, I was able to amaze family & friends with my taming talents & was subsequently dubbed the “Bird woman of Goose Country Road’
In order to save you hours of trial & error, here are a few tips to help you along.
First, you need to establish a routine the birds will associate with food.
By wearing the same clothes or hat & feeding at the same time each day, you’ll soon be considered an unthreatening part of the landscape.
I always wore a pink flowery dress to feed the hummingbirds and have had up to 40 of these jewels hovering all around me, even following my dress & I in to the house to fill the feeders. My kitchen would be buzzing with hummers that would wait until I was done then follow me back to hang up the feeders.
Trying to take pictures of these little birds was next to impossible. Not only would they not sit still long enough but they would land all over me & my camera.
Making a distinct sound, singing or whistling when you set out to fill the feeders acts as a dinner bell & in time the birds will recognize you as a food source.
Try & stand or sit near your feeder as often as possible to allow the birds to become accustomed to your presence (10-15 minutes per day).
After a few weeks of this, remove all the food from the feeder except for a small amount in one corner. Stand by this corner, lay your seed filled hand flat on the feeder & ……….wait…..
When a bird arrives, speak softly & avoid sudden movements. Even turning your head to look can frighten them, as will staring them in the eyes. Swallowing is also something you should try & avoid, it warns the bird of a predator. I am usually so preoccupied when a bird is in my hand, I tend to forget to breath let alone swallow!
Eventually (don’t give up!) as more birds come to your hand, move farther away from the feeder until they come to you no matter where you are in the yard.
Several summers ago, the Pine Siskens were used to seeing Dale & I hunched over weeding in the garden & would often land on our backs & heads. While we found this amusing, not all the guests to our home did.
One unsuspecting visitor, when perched upon by half a dozen of the tiny creatures produced such a look of terror, I was certain Alfred Hitchcock’s horror flick, The Birds , was flashing through his mind!
Hand taming can be enjoyed by all ages, requiring little more than patience & a handful of seed.
Remember though, never try to catch a bird that has learned to trust you – it may never come back again.

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