It is absolutely delightful to see a wild bird resting or searching for food in your backyard or from your kitchen window, especially if it’s a species you haven’t seen before. They are incredible creatures, and it is only natural to want to get a closer look.
But would they let you get closer, or will you end up scaring them away? It makes you wonder, how could you get them to trust you and be comfortable around you?
As with any animal, building trust requires time, and wild birds are no exception. The more time you spend with them, the more they start to trust you. The best way to build trust with a wild bird is to integrate yourself into their daily feeding routine.
You must always move slowly around them while constantly communicating with the bird until you gain some trust and become a part of their habitat. This is no easy task, and there is no guarantee it will ever be fruitful.
You may, however, be able to build enough trust to get closer, or if you are smart and lucky, you may even be able to feed them out of the palm of your hand. Let’s dive deeper into how to get wild birds to trust you and learn more about hand-feeding them.
Can You Get Wild Birds to Trust You?
Wild birds will only trust you to a certain extent. They are called “wild” for a reason, and you cannot expect to tame them and make them your pet. Given some time and incentive (food), they may trust you enough to be comfortable around you.
They may come closer or take food from you; however, these things are rare and difficult to achieve. It takes a lot of patience and luck to get a wild bird to trust you, but it isn’t impossible.
If a wild bird trusts you quickly and takes food from you easily, it is likely because another bird-lover has spent the time to gain their trust.
Can Wild Birds Recognize You?
Research suggests that some birds can recognize faces and voices; but, more research is required to conclusively determine whether most wild bird species can do the same. However, there are rare, anecdotal accounts of wild birds recognizing and becoming friendly with humans.
How to Hand Feed Wild Birds
Here’s a step-by-step guide on how you can get a wild bird to eat out of the palm of your hand.
- In the mornings, fill a nearby bird feeder routinely because this is when wild birds actively look for food. Try to ration the food in the feeder, and don’t overfeed the wild bird. This will help incentivize them to take the risk of feeding from your hand later.
- Stand 10 feet away from the feeder and calmly watch them feed for a few days. This will make them used to you being around their daily feeding time. It is best to calmly talk to them, so they may get used to your voice as well.
- Stand one step closer every other day till you come within 4-5 feet from the feeding area. If you get a negative reaction from closing in, take a step back and try again the next day. You want them to gradually get accustomed to your presence, so be patient.
- Once you feel they are comfortable enough, very slowly hold your hand out with food in it, as far from your body as possible. Never hold out an empty hand. They are only interested in the food, and without it, they will never see you as a food source. An empty hand may even undo all your hard work so far.
- It may take some time and a few tries, but the wild bird will eventually risk landing on your hand for the food. This is because you have integrated yourself in their daily feeding routine and they trust that you are not a looming threat.
- If a wild bird risks landing on your hand for feeding, remain completely still and calm. Any sudden movement, twitch, or even a gulp may scare them away. Breath slowly and let them eat till they are satisfied.
Which Wild Birds Are Known Hand Feeders?
Like any animal species, some wild birds are more trusting than others. There is no exact science to this, but there are a few wild birds that have been known or recorded to feed out of a person’s hand.
- Blue Jays
Other wild bird species may also trust you over time and take food from the palm of your hands, but there is never a guarantee.
Can Hand Feeding Wild Birds Make You Sick?
Yes, you can catch a virus or disease from hand-feeding wild birds. However, this is no different from catching a disease by interacting with any other wild animal. There are around 60 diseases you can catch from hand-feeding wild birds including, Salmonella and E.Coli.
However, the risk is relatively low if you are hand-feeding wild birds. Still, you should always avoid their fecal matter and wash your hands after hand feeding.
Can You Capture Wild Birds?
No, you should never try to catch or capture a wild bird. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service prohibits catching wild birds in The Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which means it is illegal to do so.
There are a few exceptions, like the House Sparrow, but this is only because exotic wild birds are aggressive and invasive towards other species.
Still, you should never attempt to catch a wild bird. If you find one that is injured or sick, you should always contact professionals and let them handle the situation.
Getting a wild bird to trust you is no easy task. It requires immense patience, discipline, and some luck. If you find one in your backyard, you should always approach it with caution so as to not scare it away. Feed them regularly, be calm, and talk to them to build trust over time.
If you do it right, you may just end up becoming their daily feeding time partner. However, you shouldn’t expect this relationship to last too long because wild birds will eventually migrate to different locations.