The Wild Bird and Squirrel Whisperer of Central Park

Good Things Come To Those Who Watch

Jan Yan holds bird friend perched on his hand in Central Park

Jan Yan holds bird friend perched on his hand in Central Park

Jan Yan clucks his tongue and a gray squirrel lands on the stone wall inches from his face in Central Park. They are friends and frequently meet by Mr. Yan’s concession booth filled with such as photos of the Chrysler building and the John Lennon Imagine memorial.

The squirrel wriggles impatiently until Mr. Yan strokes her from head through tail with a small twig. “Everyone likes a massage,” he says. He discards the stick as she snatches a half peanut from his other hand. Now he’s stroking her head with his bare palm.

This amazing sight is part of the parade in the great city. Mr. Yan can be found here daily not far from the pile of automobile tires that is an art installation. But sometimes city life trumps art. For my money, Mr. Yan and the squirrel are cooler than the tires.

Yan knows his squirrel well. He explains, “She fights for her territory,” he waves his hand at the trees and lawn around him. He continues, “A week ago, she was big in her stomach. Now she’s got mouths to feed, her babies are in that tree trunk.” He points but only he and she can see the holes that are the entrance to the nursery.

As soon as the squirrel darts away a small grey and yellow crested Tufted Titmouse lands on Yan’s outstretched palm. The bird hurriedly pecks at Yan’s blanched almond.

For six years this gifted man from Tibet has been feeding squirrels and birds like this–and he’s never been bitten or scratched. Grinning he breaks a peanut in half for the bird. I bet there’s not a happier man in Manhattan.

More photographs of Jan Yan with friends in Central Park

Click to enlarge.

6 Responses to The Wild Bird and Squirrel Whisperer of Central Park
  1. Susan Finley
    March 20, 2012 | 1:12 am

    I LOVE this story! Can we have another installment on Mr. Yan’s life and animal friends?

    • Susan
      March 20, 2012 | 7:31 pm

      Thank you so much for your comment.


  2. […] been visiting my new friend—Jan Yan the wildlife whisperer–six feet and millions and millions of dollars away from […]

  3. Susan
    April 23, 2012 | 8:09 pm

    Jan Yan is still feeding the mother squirrel and her babies. He spends about $5 a week buying them peanuts. Alas, the bird has disappeared. Let’s hope it flew to another section of Central Park.

  4. Marcia
    April 23, 2012 | 8:23 pm

    Oh! I do hope the bird it allright. Jan Yan is a very kind soul. People who care about God’s creatures are my kind of people.

  5. Susan
    June 12, 2012 | 3:13 pm

    Marcia, you sound like a good person. Good-looking dog!

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