How To Get Wild Birds To Trust You: A 5-Step Guide


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Fairy tale princesses often have a special relationship with wild animals, especially birds.

But you don’t have to be in a fairy tale to befriend your own wild birds. All you need is a little time and respect – and food.

To get wild birds to trust you, offer them a safe space with food and water. Hang around while they visit your yard, speaking softly but standing still. Then, you can slowly approach them and offer them food from your hand or nearby. As long as you move slowly and respect their space, wild birds will begin to trust you.

How To Gain A Wild Bird’s Trust

If you want to have a closer relationship with nature in your own backyard, try befriending the wild birds. The most important things to remember are to be patient and respect the birds’ space.

Keep that in mind and use this guide to help you get your backyard wild birds to trust you.

1. Set Up Food And Water

Wild birds are like any wild animal; two of their main goals are food and shelter. And most small birds don’t have much power to defend themselves from larger animals.

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Their best chance is to avoid danger altogether.

They’re not going to risk approaching a large, loud animal (like a human) unless they know it’s worth the risk.

To ensure you attract wild birds to your area to begin with, set up a bird feeder in your backyard. Different birds like different types of food, so do some research about the birds in your area.

Then, fill the feeder with their favorite foods.

Try not to overfill the feeder; eventually, you want the birds to come directly to you for food. They’re less likely to do so if they can get all the food that they want from your feeder instead.

A bird bath is also a nice offering for wild birds. Always make sure to keep it clean, though, and change the water on a regular basis. Wild birds won’t bother visiting if they know the water is no good!

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2. Establish A Routine

It’s important for wild birds to be comfortable with your presence before you ever approach them. One way to do this is to establish a good routine with your bird feeder that they can recognize.

Refill your feeder at the same time each day. This ensures that the food is fresh and free of mold which might turn a bird off. It also teaches the birds that your yard is a consistent and safe place to come to eat.

As they’re becoming more familiar with feeding time, you can also use this opportunity to establish your own physical presence.

After filling your feeder, walk about ten feet away. This is close enough that the birds will know you’re there, but not close enough to scare them.

Stick around your bird feeder for between five and ten minutes each day. Try not to make any noise or sudden movements. Eventually, you’ll become part of the natural environment for the wild birds, and you can start moving closer.

3. Move Closer To The Birds And Speak Softly

Once you feel the birds are familiar with your presence, take one step closer to the bird feeder each day.

If at any point the birds seem agitated or fly away, step back the next day and wait. It’s important to take your time at this stage.

You should also try speaking in very soft tones as you get closer to the feeder. The wild birds will become familiar with the sound of your voice without them being startled.

Then, in the future, you won’t scare them away just by speaking at the wrong moment.

4. Hold Food In Your Hand

Food is a great motivator for humans and wild birds. By offering an open hand containing food, wild birds will have a reason to risk coming up to you.

Never try to offer a bird an empty hand, open or closed.

First, they’re not likely to get close to you if you don’t offer anything. And second, if they do approach you thinking you do have food when you don’t, you’re just disappointing them. You likely lose any trust you may have gained up to that point.

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It may take some time for them to get closer to you. Don’t let this discourage you and be patient. Remember to keep talking in a quiet, soft voice as you approach your wild birds. 

5. Keep Very Still

If you follow the previous steps, eventually a wild bird should be brave enough to hop into your hand. Congratulations!

At this point, it’s very important to keep still. Wild birds are very skittish and may fly away at any moment. You may want to even hold your breath while a bird is near.

It may take a few tries to establish enough trust for a wild bird to come to you for food. Once they do, though, others are likely to follow.


Different Birds Need Different Methods

The above steps work best for smaller birds you find in your own backyard. Other birds, such as crows, may be too large for you to hand-feed the same way.

However, many of the same principles apply to these birds as well. Crows in particular have a reputation for being very intelligent and loyal. If you befriend them, they may even begin to bring you trinkets!

To attract the attention and trust of larger birds, offer them food while you stand nearby, about ten feet away. Following the same steps as above, begin to move closer to the birds over time.

Try using a table or porch railing that’s large enough to hold the birds instead of your hand for feeding. Stand right next to the surface of your choice and place a small bit of food there.

Over time, a crow may hop up on the surface to eat while you stand right next to it. Then, you may be able to offer food out of your hand.

Having larger birds jump on a flat surface before your hand will make things more comfortable for you.


Always Use Caution And Respect Nature

While befriending wild birds can be fun and rewarding, it’s important to remember that they are still wild animals. One of the best ways we can respect and preserve nature is to let it be.

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Too much interaction and reliance on humans can have a negative impact on wildlife. They may put themselves in harmful situations if they believe that humans won’t harm them.

There’s also a chance that we may offer them food or shelter that isn’t healthy for them.

As for people, wild animals can be unpredictable, and even small birds can cause injuries if you’re not careful. They can also carry diseases that are communicable to humans.

Be sure to wash your hands after any physical interaction with a wild bird.

As fun as having a wild bird friend may seem, it can also become a nuisance.

For instance, house sparrows are an invasive species. They’ve become so accustomed to the benefits of human civilization that they like to nest in or near our houses.

The problem is that they’re loud and aggressive, especially to other birds. So, befriending some species is not always in your best interest if you want a variety of backyard birds. 


In Summary

Getting wild birds to trust you is a rewarding experience for any nature lover. While it’s always important to respect wild animals, it is possible to befriend wild birds if you’re patient and careful.

Offer them fresh food and clean water, and let them get familiar with your presence when they visit. Then, you can slowly move closer and offer them food right out of your hand.

It’ll take time, but someday you could have some feathered friends literally eating out of the palm of your hand!

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Want more birds in your backyard? Get simple tips on attracting feathered friends and maximizing your bird feeding setup. Our free cheat sheet has got you covered!
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James Goodman

James is a native Texan with a love for birding and outdoor adventures. When he's not birdwatching, you can find him hiking, camping or playing the piano.

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