Ken Reid’s chickadees a mystery – or are they?

By Denis Grignon

Advocate Podcast host Denis Grignon looks on at the chickadees of KRCA, eating out of Nancy Payne's hand. Photo: Pierre Chartier.

Even if you roll your eyes at anything Disney, you can’t help but feel like you’ve walked into a scene from one of its bazillion family animated films where humans gleefully consort with wildlife.

It is, after all, that warm, fuzzy, smile-generating feeling that can only come when a bird lands on your hand to peck away at a few seeds. Soon it darts away, freeing up space to allow one of its feathered friends to quickly assume its place.

Feed. Wait. Repeat.

The chickadees in Ken Reid Park have people flocking – (yes, pun intended) – to a foot bridge near the conservation authority’s group camp site, wherein the small birds congregate. And eat from a steady buffet of the hand held seeds. No experience required – just some patience and knowing where to stand.

“If your hand is closer to safety for chickadees, (such as shrubs and trees),” says Rob Stavinga, a watershed resource technician with Ken Reid Conservation Authority, “they’ll always come to you.”

While it officially doesn’t typically endorse feeding wildife, Stavinga says the practise now popular with the public isn’t really going to have a negative impact on the lives of chickadees. Stavinga says they naturally return to their abundance of food sources come spring.

“It’s good for the park,” he explains. “It gets people out here for reasons other than to bring their dog to the dog park. Kids love it. It’s a great way to introduce them to nature and birds.”

So, is there something unique to the physiology of Ken Reid’s chickadees? Not really. In Episode 3 of The Advocate Podcast: Stories from Kawartha Lakes – available March 15 – Stavinga divulges the secret as to why these birds are eating out of our hands — literally.

The Advocate Podcast: Stories from Kawartha Lakes is sponsored by Wards Lawyers and drops on the 15th and 30th of each month. It’s available for download via iTunes and Spotify and for streaming via

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