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Feeding Our Feathered Friends: A Guide to Cultivating Avian Friendships

Updated: Oct 4, 2023

Writing by: Arjun Rajan

Photography by: Hannes Burlin

Have you you wondered what it’s like making friends with wild birds? You probably see them everywhere, flying and making sounds, but you want to know if it is possible to develop a strong bond with them. The answer is yes! The best way is by giving them tasty treats that they really like and putting out baths, but that does not make them suddenly good friends with you. It takes a while before they trust you, so you just have to wait for some time. Many birds are quite intelligent and can remember human kindness. Food is one of the most important parts of their lives, so this is a good way to start a friendship with birds!

How Can I Start Off?

Go to a local grocery store like Walmart and buy mixed seeds with mostly sunflower ones since most birds eat those. Remember that not all birds will eat the same seed. Check allaboutbirds for more information regarding what seeds different birds eat. Putting bird feeders is a way for the birds to find food without constantly searching. Keep a bird bath nearby since they may drink water after eating, or need to keep themselves clean.

How can I Gain the Bird's Trust?

Birds are very intelligent as mentioned, so they can remember people very well. If you are outside and see them flying to some nearby trees to watch and chirp to get your attention, then this is mainly a sign that the bird is showing his/her trust towards you. Their trust can make them live in your area for a longer time. If your bird migrates, they may remember the location and come back to you. Birds that trust you may build nests nearby, or bring their friends to introduce you to them.

How can I Hand-Feed Birds?

Hand-feeding birds is something you can do with birds that constantly come close to you for food, but it usually takes a while for a bird to eat from your hand. To start things off, first keep the food a little away from you and see if the bird is comfortable eating. Then slowly start keeping the food closer and closer to you, and by then the bird should get used to it! But here is some safety when you are doing this. DO NOT pet them since they may bite or get scared.

Some birds may mistake your fingers as food and accidentally bite you, so here’s what you should do.

Start keeping the food on your fingertips first, before slowly starting to put it on your palm.

Keep your hand like a cup when you put food on your palm.

Where can I Feed Birds?

Be very cautious with wild birds in cities since they may carry diseases. Still, feeding them is no problem. Your apartment may have a balcony where you can keep seeds out for them. If you regularly keep them out, you should see birds such as rock pigeons and house sparrows eating. Many birds in cities like NYC or D.C., and even suburbs can be independent when they are looking for food, but some actually rely on people for food. Locals and tourists feeding birds is common along the Hawaiian islands, which is why you may see many birds coming close to you in areas with food or restaurants. Some may eat on your hand. If you want to make friends with wild birds and try to hand-feed them, good luck!

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