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We love to see the look on people’s faces when a bird lands on their hand. It doesn’t matter if it is your first time or the 101st, it is always wonderful.

Black-capped chickadees and nuthatches are the wild birds around here most likely to take seeds straight from your hand. They stay throughout winter and welcome the extra fat that seeds provide. Both birds eat insects through the buggier months and switch to mostly seeds and nuts when their summer food is scarce.

Here’s How To Do It

1. Use the good stuff. Black oil sunflower seeds seem to work best for us when hand feeding the birds, though pieces of walnut work well too. Chickadees and nuthatches don’t care much for grain.

2. Location! The flocks can be a bit picky about where they spend their time. Birds need perching spots so a certain number of trees are important for them to feel comfortable. Try your closest naturalized park or ravine to see if chickadees or nuthatches live there.

A Bird in the Hand

Red-breasted Nuthatch

3. Spread out. Sometimes birds can be spooked by a throng of people: It looks a little intimidating! If you are in a group, spread out along the path so that the birds aren’t as threatened.

4. Still & High. Keep your feet still and reach your flat hand (with seeds on it) above your head. Then wait.

A Bird in the Hand

White-breasted Nuthatch

5. Be patient. It may not happen right away. Once you do find a flock of winter birds, it can take some time before they will trust people enough to land on a hand. They may swoop in close and then fly away a few times before they decide to take any seed.

6. Watch what the bird does with the seed. Does it eat it right away or hide it for later? Most of the seeds are quickly hidden in curled leaves and crevices of tree bark. Chickadees have incredible memories that can recall most of these caches for up to a month!

A Bird in the Hand

Black-capped Chickadee

If you don’t find a flock of these birds or they don’t land on your hand, keep trying. Sometimes it takes a while before we earn their trust.

Visit us at the High Park Nature Centre to learn more! We love to feed the birds. Right now is a great time to sign up for our winter Naturalist Clubs for Kids and nature-themed birthday parties. The HPNC Naturalist Clubs registration opens today, Wednesday, Nov. 28. 

Jon Hayes loves hiking the trails of High Park every season but especially in the winter (with a bag of seeds in his pocket).

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