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At Your Fingertips
the simple delight of hand-feeding the birds.
All it takes is a little time, a little patience, and a little handful of sunflower seeds…
Wherever you live, chances are you have a friendly neighborhood bird that’s open to exploring hand-feeding. Here in Maine, the Black-Capped Chickadees and Red-Breasted Nuthatches are just curious enough, just sunflower-seed-motivated enough, just brave enough to visit an open hand.
It comes in stages. First, the birds are attracted to a feeder. Then, you put yourself in place of the feeder. If they have the opportunity to choose between you and the feeder, they are likely to continue choosing the feeder. But if you plant yourself calmly in the way of the feeder, and become a still and quiet feeder-replacement, they will most likely begin to consider whether you might be a harmless-enough substitute.
There will be a gathering in the branches. There will be inquisitive chirps, some fluttering and repositioning. Someone brave will scout the territory, swooping in and hovering for a moment before bailing out. And they may all give up and depart. But just be patient and come back later, because when it happens…
It happens all in a moment! Your brave first contact will swoop in, hover, and land…and your world will reduce to the space around your fingertips. You’ll marvel over the delicate feathers, the tiny toes, the glitter of one eye cocked to consider you carefully and suspiciously. You’ll be so excited when he decides you’re okay and snatches a sunflower seed out of your outstretched palm. It will all be over in an instant, but where the leader goes, the others will follow, and visitor after visitor will swoop into your waiting hands.
And you’ll be hooked! These tiny moments, where you connect individually with wild creatures, are full of wonder and new awareness and that mysterious phenomenon of time-slowing-to-the-space-of-a-heartbeat. Every time a wild creature chooses you, you will feel a flutter of excitement. It’s just something about their nature, and our nature, and the nature of our intersection!
It’s funny, because that little flutter of excitement never goes away, no matter how many times they visit. There is just something irresistibly, endlessly heart-warming about this moment - a little time, a little patience, a little handful of sunflower seeds, and the world at your fingertips!
Remember to be careful about familiarizing wildlife. There are great benefits to our connections with our wild neighbors, but there can be harmful consequences, too. Some risks to consider for bird-feeding: clean feeders regularly to prevent harmful fungal and bacterial growth that can sicken birds; safeguard windows to prevent bird-strikes; wash your hands thoroughly after any contact; if you see a bird injured or acting strangely, contact a local support agency (like Avian Haven here in Maine).
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