Matt and I were headed over to Daisy House to test my crazy notion that the chickadees there would feed from our hands. I had noticed that the birds there—especially the chickadees—were very tame and unafraid of my presence, and thought that hand-feeding them was definitely worth a shot. So, I took all the walnuts out of a trail mix in the student apartment (yes, really) and grabbed some sunflower seeds to see if they would really feed from a person’s hand. I hoped optimistically that after both of us had been standing there motionless for twenty or thirty minutes, we would have had a total of two or three chickadees visit both of our hands combined. Chickadees love walnuts, so one or two were bound to succumb to the irresistible temptation during that time. I had been to a few nature centers and parks where birds fed from peoples’ hands, so I was familiar with how hand-feeding was done.
I neglected to consider one thing—chickadees don’t just love walnuts; they really, REALLY love walnuts. It was less than two minutes before the first chickadee landed on my hand. I was dumbfounded. Then, in quick succession, five more landed on my hand and stole off with little chunks of walnut held in their bills. After that, to my complete astonishment, two White-breasted Nuthatches unhesitantly landed on my hand and flew off to cache their prizes somewhere in the forest near the student path. Not only had chickadees fed from my hand, but nuthatches as well. This was almost too good to be true! After three more chickadees had landed on my hand, I decided I had better switch places with Matt—to my embarrassment, I had not realized until now that he had not yet had a single chickadee land on his hand.
I turned from the tree branch where my hand was resting and suggested that Matt move there. He did. Almost immediately, a chickadee landed on his hand. The grin that lit his face as that chickadee landed—the first chickadee he had ever held—was indescribable. Four more landed there while he stood motionless, thrilled by this demonstration of complete trust coming from a wild animal.
Because it worked so well I have since been taking two people to Daisy House per day, walnuts and sunflower seeds in hand, to help them experience the feeling of having a wild bird in their hand. It has been very gratifying—for me and for everyone who has tried this out so far.
This experience has helped me attain achieve Learning Goal #6—at least the “education” part—in two ways. The first of these is simply the fact that I have gotten to educate people about how to hand-feed birds. Secondly and more importantly, I have discovered a powerful new way to connect people with birds and all of nature. How could a person not be smitten with the beauty of the natural world with such a beautiful creature sitting on the cusp of their hand? After all, a bird in the hand is...