I’ve Never… fed birds out of my hand.

“If you never have, you should.
These things are fun and fun is good.”
— Dr. Seuss

I love Ottawa. It’s so well set up for cycling and outdoor activity. The Gatineaus are right next door making it uber-easy to escape to a bit of wilderness. Of course, it’s not as fitness-obsessed as a place like Canmore, Alberta, where residents climb a couple mountains and paddle down rapids before breakfast, but Ottawa holds its own just the same.

I was up in Ottawa recently visiting my Mom and a few of my siblings. Mom has recently moved to a new house which is located minutes away from a park, biking trails, a beach and a conservation area with kilometers-worth of winding trails. We took a walk through those trails and I was amazed how quickly and completely we became cut off from the rest of the city. Finding these green sanctuaries in an urban setting is essential food for the soul – especially for someone like me who grew up in a rural world.

Speaking of food, Mom brought along birdseed and demonstrated how to get the little chickadees, a nuthatch and even a morbidly obese squirrel to eat out of our hands. I was hoping the giant blue heron we saw would also come eat out of my hand but he never did. I was surprised how weightless these little birds were (“light as a popcorn fart” as my Mom would say) and how comfortable they were flying into our outstretched hands.


That's it my little chickadee. I'm not going to toss you in my mouth like a chicken nugget... foolish, foolish bird.


 This wasn’t the first time I tried to get animals to eat from my hand. I remember trying to feed the monkeys when I was on a hike in Hong Kong, while visiting my brother and his wife. Like the chickadees in Ottawa, pigeons in New York or those stupid geese on the Toronto Islands, the monkeys along those Hong Kong trails had become fat and domesticated, being around humans so much. McDonald’s French fries had slowed them into overweight couch potatoes – closing the evolutionary gap between monkeys and humans even further.


Don't feed the monkeys.


It was sad to think how this new generation of fast food-fed primates would fare, with their dulled instincts, should the trail system ever shut down (or how well we humans would fare should our civilized world ever shut down).

Their instincts weren’t completely dulled I suppose since I only narrowly escaped being bitten by one I tried to pet. I should have brought more fries I suppose. A scene from the movie Outbreak flashed through my head as I snatched my hand back.

I felt much safer feeding the chickadees from my hand in Ottawa. And much more at ease feeding them bird seed instead of French fries.

Feed birds from my hand? Check.

Duane Elgin, author of “Voluntary Simplicity”, talked about the “invisible wealth of experiential riches.” My “I’ve Never Club” is inspired by this idea and chronicles my reflections on the novel things I’ve done recently.  


Funny stories. Good advice. Josh Martin is the author of the book “Simple(ton) Living: Lessons in balance from life’s absurd moments.” Click here to learn more and to purchase a copy.

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3 Responses to I’ve Never… fed birds out of my hand.

  1. Damien Martin says:

    I once fed a chickadee off my tongue so I know how light and unafraid they are. I have been trying to replicate it ever since because I did not get a photo the first time. I see what I can do this winter at Mer Bleu.

  2. intouchworld says:

    Near Canmore (Chester Lake), the birds will swoop down and take your food right from your mouth. Also in Jasper at Maligne Lake, the birds are aggressive and will do the same.

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