Wild Massachusetts Destination Where You Can Hold a Bird in Your Hand

Updated: Mar 18, 2020

If your kids are at all like mine, then the idea of feeding a bird out of their hands is not only on their bucket list, but a dream come true. If you have the time, patience, and very trainable chickadees, you might be able to make this happen in your backyard.

In the meantime, however, visit Mass Audubon's Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary. With over 2800 acres of woodlands, bogs, and meadows, you'll have the opportunity to meander the trails while being waltzed by the sounds of a wide variety of our New England birds. Bring this checklist with you to see how many different variety you find while you're out there.

Our favorite trail at the sanctuary is Rockery Loop, where we can cross boardwalks over vernal pools, explore rock caverns and their narrow passages, and sit among exotic trees while dozens of birds jump in and out of our hands for seeds. Since we tend to stop for 10-15 minutes at a time, feeding birds, climbing fallen trees, and investigating the shoreline, this loop takes us about 1-1.5 hours. The best part, besides the scenery, is the ability for tiny legs (2 and 3 yr olds) to complete this loop all on their own.

If you have little ones who still enjoy a good playground, then hit up their natural playground before you leave. The opportunity for imaginative play will excite them for hours while they build a log cabin, scale a miniature observation tower, slide down the wood planks, hide in the tree hollows, and balance on the variety of material laying around.

Tips for feeding the birds: Majority of the birds at the sanctuary are very tame as we have even been within 5 feet of a Great Blue Heron before it decided hunting for fish was easier when there weren't 5 children standing around watching.

  • Bring Seed: We bring both black oiled sunflower seeds and peanuts and find both are highly desired.

  • Look for an area where the birds can easily jump from a branch to your hand as this tends to make them feel safer.

  • Hold still with your arms outstretched

  • Whisper

  • Move slowly and confidently

In a time of social distancing, I can think of no better place to allow for quiet reflection, where time evades your conscience as you find yourself absorbed in the natural world.

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