Stacey Cole's Nature Talks: Bluebirds bring unexpected happiness when feeding from hand

By STACEY COLE August 25. 2017 9:51PM
Longtime Nature Talks reader Roberta Roberts sent in this photo, taken by her daughter, of a male bluebird feeding one of his babies. (Courtesy)

Reader’s note: My daughter and I were talking this morning about bluebirds and were trying to remember when we first started feeding them. As I looked through some old newspapers, I found an article by Stacey Cole dated June 16, 2001, where I had told of my experiences with bluebirds. So we have been feeding for 16 years. How time flies! I would like to have that reprinted so that I could share the above article with my great-grandchildren. On June 1, 2002, Mr. Cole included another of my observations about feeding bluebirds. Maybe both could be included in the reprint.

Thank you,

Roberta Roberts, Stratham

PS. We are still feeding!

Editor’s note: The following column was originally published in the New Hampshire Union Leader on June 16, 2001. The second column requested by the reader above will appear in two weeks.

ATTRACTING BLUEBIRDS to a nest box is an accomplishment but, to me, feeding them out of hand is astounding.

To be successful in such a venture, it requires a lengthy discipline of considerable patience. Thus, I was delighted to receive the following letter from one our Stratham readers, who not only related details of the experience but enclosed photographs to prove it.

The letter read: “After living in the same house for 46 years and trying to attract bluebirds, I have finally got a nesting pair.

“The birdhouse is on the railing of our backyard deck and just a few feet from the sliding glass door. The female became accustomed to our presence and seemed quite happy with our company. She laid four eggs and spent many hours in the nesting box. She was becoming quite tame, so I decided to try to feed her from my hand. I had read that mealworms are one of their favorite foods.

“So, with a lot of patience on my part and a lot of nervous attempts on her part, she finally took the first worm from my hand. For about a week, I hand-fed her three times a day.

“And now for the bad news. Just two days before the expected due date, something robbed the nest of all four eggs. I was devastated and she was frantic. I decided to keep on with my feeding routine, and she was willing to keep coming to me.

“The pair have started a new nest in a house about 100 feet from the deck. The female still comes for the mealworm on schedule. Do I dare hope that this will be a successful brood and that she will bring her babies to me for their breakfast?

“As yet, I have not been able to entice the male to feed from my hand. He swoops down at my head and makes a ‘clucking/clicking’ noise with his beak. Maybe he is not very hungry or maybe he is just too proud.

“P.S. I wish that Mrs. Loeb was still with us. She would have enjoyed the bluebird photos.”

Knowing Nackey Loeb’s interest in wild things and her special interest in bluebirds as expressed to me through her letters about these beautiful birds, I know how much she would have enjoyed the four excellent photos our reader enclosed.

One of the photos depicted the location of the birdhouse, two are close-ups of the female bluebird and the last of mother bluebird sitting on our reader’s fingers stretching for a mealworm held in our reader’s palm.

I congratulate our Stratham reader for her success in feeding a bluebird out of hand. To me, a remarkable feat!


Enticing a wild bird to feed from your hand can be a very rewarding experience. The feel of tiny claws lightly clutching your finger while a bird takes a seed from the palm of your hand can bring about an exhilarating belief that a trust has evolved between you and one of nature’s wild ones.

I well recall the first time I lured a chickadee to take a sunflower seed from my hand. Believe me, it was a real thrill.

As the years roll on and my activities slow, I find occasional refreshment in a fond recollection. A most pleasant entertainment, I declare. Indeed, within our mind’s eye we have the ability to enjoy traveling counterclockwise through our yesteryears to see again and sense again what once was.

I have found, however, that the struggle with daily responsibility offers infrequent opportunity for such delicate and cherished reminiscence.

Henry David Thoreau may have had a similar thought when he mused in his journal of Aug. 9, 1858: “The mind tastes few flavors in the course of a year. We are visited by but few thoughts which are worth entertaining. ... Our genius is like a brush which only once in many months is freshly dipped into the paint-pot.”

Stacey Cole, Nature Talks columnist for more than 50 years, passed away in 2014. If readers have a favorite column that they would like to see reprinted, please drop a note to Jen Lord at

AnimalsOutdoorsNature TalksGeneral NewsStrathamPhoto Feature

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