So the worms are meant for this guy, his spouse and kids. Okay, the chickadees can have some, the titmice can too because they have nestlings to feed. Brown headed nuthatches stick around their box long after babies have fledged, they’re too much and may need a permanent address? For the first time phoebe finally has a family (that I’ve actually seen anyway) so of course they must take turns at the mealworm feeder – may you grow strong and thrive little phoebes!
Cardinals won’t touch worms… until they have babies to feed. The catbirds are simply out of hand, wish they’d just stick to the grape jelly! Have you ever seen 20,000 meal worms in a plastic shoe box heading for dormancy in the fridge? It’s become the norm as live worms cost less when buying in bulk. The worms aren’t bad, but the overnight shipping can kill ya!
Using this open dish as one of the mealworm feeders is really just asking for it, but babies can’t figure out the enclosed bluebird feeders, or jail type ones with open grid cage. Carolina wrens certainly can, they’re always the first to figure out any new feeder containing mealies!
Screen feeders are nice and easy to use for humans and birds alike… but the worms crawl out! Anything with texture or tooth worms can grip allows cling and crawl action! No worries, anyone who drops to the ground meets their fate by a robin or thrasher just waiting below for the great escape!
So the addiction? The grower must think I eat worms myself, the quantity has now increased to 25,000 worms a pop… and this is every four weeks or so. And I wonder why I’m broke?
The birdie menu was heavy with special treats today as frigid temperatures almost did my own hands in while feeding! Fingers actually stinging, they had to be warmed by the vent to feel them again. You may say ha… it’s Atlanta and not that bad… wanna bet?
A balmy 5 degrees right now, there’s no chance of leaving the mealworm feeder filled for dawn… the poor little mealies will freeze. That’s what happened last night 🙁
Actually, this is a pretty normal AM feeding, because if there’s too much food out, the nasty starlings hog it all, so daily rations are fed twice instead. Plus everything’s freezing right now.
Not an ad for Peter Pan either, this is absolutely the normal routine, (for the birdhouse chick anyway) just happen to snap a photo of it today.
So, what exactly does this backyard bird fanatic feed? From right to left, here goes:
- Finch mix, consisting of finely chopped sunflower and thistle. Lots of goldfinches, just not gold right now.
- Small cup of live worms for the new enclosed mealworn feeder… take that starlings! Carolina wrens are usually first to figure out these feeders.
- Large cup of cardinal mix for the platform feeder.
- Large cup of critter mix for the squirrels and a few other birds.
- Large cup of sunflower hearts/shelled peanut mix for platform feeder #2.
- Live worms for two hanging dish-style mealworm feeders. Meant for the bluebird pair and eastern phoebe, but many others partake.
- Sweet corn squirrel log, which is equal to about 12ears of regular corn cobs. These must be tightened up every few days as our crafty critters have managed to steal them from time to time!
- Small cup of bluebird banquet, suet-like mixture that’s easy to make. Check our site (under birding resources) for this recipe and more.
- Peanut butter, slapped right on tree bark is great for squirrels and birds. High in fat and protein, these extra calories provide energy needed to stay warm.
- Re-hydrated meal worms for yet another dish-style feeder. Boiling water added to dry worms , steep and drain.
- Bark Butter and suet slice for the woodpecker feeder.
- Note the heated bath behind the food, and the cord running across the yard for heated bath #2 of five. Too many feeders to show pics, let’s just say there’s a good mix!
Seriously… who would make up this stuff? We spend a lot of time fussing over our birds – but it’s so worth having them around. It was so cold today that the squirrels didn’t even venture out until late afternoon.
Say you have only one bird feeder, that’s perfect too, just remember the water! Birds need a fresh water source even in the coldest weather. As far as Mr. Arctic Mass, you are not welcome in the South, so please go home now!
Killer photo… thanks David for letting us use it for this post. A red bellied woodpecker spears a snack of worms with that long tongue!
The conversation centered around this photo had nothing to with mealworm feeders, but rather birds’ tongues. Yup, of all bird species, it’s only the woodpecker and hummingbird who can actually stick out their tongue! And the limited range of movement is straight forward at that.
Box, dish, tray, cup, cage, staked, hanging, pole-mount and so on… there all kinds of feeders for offering mealworms. Live worms may find escape from open feeders, but it’s not the only reason the box or cage styles are popular. Just about every bird around will eat your worms (and pretty darn fast), so if the intention is feeding bluebirds… enclosed models are basically referred to as bluebird feeders, and they may be hung, pole-, or post-mounted.
This kind of mealworm feeder keeps most birds out, as very few will actually enter a box to retrieve food. The entry/exit is sized the same as that of a bluebird house, although chickadees, carolina wrens and nuthatches will use these feeders if/when live worms are discovered!
In our quest for bluebirds several years ago, housing and fresh water didn’t seem like enough. Up went the mealworm feeder, with every kind of bluebird food out there! It wasn’t until live worms became available on a daily basis the blues finally stuck around. Since then, a Gilbertson nest box and a another NABS approved wooden house have hosted many successful broods over the years. It takes an open habitat, with good perches for hunting insects. As for the hawks who nest nearby in the woods… we could all do without them 🙁 By the way, three woodpecker species totally ignore both open-dish mealworm feeders in our yard, preferring suet and nuts over live worms. Just one of the many reasons we found this photo so very cool!
Pretty smart robin… since she can’t enter the traditional fly-in mealworm feeder, she sits directly below it on the ground and waits for escaped worms to drop! Imagine my surprise when I glanced out the window and saw her with a huge mouthful of something… my worms! But she’s got nestlings to feed as well, so hey-whatever works.
Normally live worms are reserved for the bluebirds, but the heat and drought covering most of the country makes it extremely difficult on most wildlife. Actually, crickets, spiders and grasshoppers thrive in these dryer conditions, making it easier for bluebirds and other insect feeding birds. Robins on the other hand, thrive when soils are moist, making their preferred foods more abundant.
One mealworm feeder is an open dish style, that’s where the baby blues first learn to eat on their own. It takes some extra time for them to learn the fly-in feeder. These look more like houses, the worms are inside and there are several entry/exit holes. Luckily nobody else (except for Carolina Wrens) ventures into the feeder. Live worms aren’t too terribly expensive… it’s the shipping that hurts your wallet! Not only must they be shipped via overnight service, but due to high temps, they must be shipped in coolers. This adds size and weight to the delivery-bumping the price even higher. Oh… what we don’t do for our birds!
By the way, during nesting season, it is advised to add calcium if you are supplementing with live worms. Some folks use crushed eggshells, but I’ve never been successful with them. Calcium Carbonate (powder) is inexpensive, and simple to use with worms. Just shake some on the worms to lightly “dust” them prior to feeding. The calcium helps females from becoming egg-bound – eggs actually get stuck in the canal-and it’s fatal too. It also helps fledgelings grow strong bones for a better chance of survival.
This little plexiglass dish get big traffic in our yard! When live mealworms are placed in it (most times twice a day) all bets are off. The bird traffic is fast and furious, first come, first served!
Originally meant for our Bluebirds – the Chickadees and Titmice quickly learned of the treasure. So, the Bluebirds soon received their own enclosed mealworm feeder, although Carolina Wrens have since figured that out as well!
Feeding live worms can get expensive when everybody’s in on the coveted treat, and I mean everybody! Even the Robins get a few worms in a glass dish that’s left on the ground. And I can’t stand when the crows get to them first!
Unless you have the time and patience to cultivate your own worms, ordering in bulk quantities is easier on the wallet. The worms really aren’t that expensive… it’s the shipping that gets ya! Since they’re live, overnight delivery is required for warmer temperatures. For a few months out of the year (depending on your location) a second-day delivery works fine.
Gradually decreasing the amount of worms, and adding a home-made suet mixture in this meal worm feeder landed a “so-so” reaction from most of our beaked buddies. This Pine Warbler has a mouthful of the stuff, (which is why his beak looks fat & white) but just look at that expression! It’s like “excuse me, where are my worms?”
This mealworm dish actually has drainage, but many similar styles do not, making them perfect for offering water too. In summer, fresh fruit is a great choice for migratory birds, while suet mixtures & crumbles, and shelled peanuts are good options for cold weather feeding.
Offering live worms has created a whole new dimension to our backyard birding experiences. Definitely worth giving it a try if you’ve never fed them before, especially if bluebirds are in the area. And Robins adore them too! But if you don’t want the birds eating you out of house and home… a more traditional, or enclosed mealworm feeder may be your better choice.
Lots of bluebirds have passed through this mealworm feeder in our back yard. Last season we had three successful broods of Eastern Bluebirds, in part, thanks to a welcoming habitat. Even the Chickadees, Carolina Wrens and Titmice have learned to use this fly-in mealworm feeder with ease… which I’m not sure is such a good thing? Worms are really reserved for our bluebirds only! This traditional type bluebird feeder is made from recycled plastic, and although it’s about five years old now, it still looks and acts the same way as when it was first installed. With so much junk out there, who doesn’t like quality stuff!
What I am sure of that’s not a good thing are the yellow jackets who continue to torture the live worms inside the feeder! When, for heaven’s sake is it time for them to die off? Every morning when I go to add worms for the patiently waiting, eager bluebirds… the yellow jackets are in there munching on worm remains.
Last night it was in the 20’s here in North Georgia, and finally this morning none of the nasty jax were seen! The weather here is crazy though, hot, cold, warm cold, even some bulbs started forcing their way through the ground with the last dip in temperatures.
I can only hope with this last frost, that all yellow jackets are gone for the season! I think the birds will be happy too 🙂
We feed lots of mealworms for our Bluebirds, and Titmice, and Nuthatches, and Carolina Wrens, even the Cardinals learned to get in on the game. Because we use several mealworm feeder dishes, and only one enclosed bluebird feeder, it’s pretty much a free-for-all. Buying the worms in bulk greatly reduces the cost of feeding so many worms, and I can honestly say they are a favorite of many birds.
It’s so hot and humid, I think my brain may have started to melt today. In the morning, there’s a ritual of starting the day and feeding the pets and the birds. Because fledgelings abound this time of year, we dust the mealworms with calcium carbonate as they are “calcium-depleting” and young birds need strong bones.
Today the calcium carbonate almost went in the coffee, while the creamer was headed for the worms! I don’t think the birds would have appreciated coffee mate, and I know the coffee would have been pretty gross. Luckily I caught myself and thought “what the heck?” All was good with the world, or so I thought.
Later that afternoon I arrived at FedEx to drop off several packages. Only to find the back of the car empty and the boxes still home by the garage door 🙁 Yes, I believe the heat is actually melting my brain, I’m hoping it doesn’t self-combust! Tomorrow, maybe I’ll start the day under one of the leaf misters for some cooling off.
A Gilbertson nest box was their preference, and soon 5 Bluebird eggs sat in the nest. A pair of Eastern Bluebirds who braved a harsh winter in North Georgia found their perfect nest site. It wasn’t long at all before the eggs hatched and five babies slept comfortably in the pine straw nest. I’m not sure when the eggs were laid, but the next time the box was checked it contained the cutest naked babies.
Then some trouble for our Bluebird pair 🙁 Nothing had gotten into the box or killed the babies, it’s dad who had disappeared. With babies fully feathered now and overflowing their nest, dad had been missing for two days, at this crucial fledge time too.
The next box check revealed that mom had managed to fledge all five babies, so this gave me hope for at least a partially successfully brood. I supplemented the the worms with calcium carbonate powder to help build strong bones, and doubled the number of worms being offered in the mealworm feeder.
When raising bluebirds, both parents will feed the chicks for thirty days. Even second or third broods receive help from older siblings. Super mom was on her own, and the nasty storms during their first few nights out in the world didn’t help at all. I was like the worrisome mother. Sometimes another mate is found and the new male may or may not help to care for her brood. About two weeks after fledging, a new male was spotted gorging himself at the mealworm feeder. My only hope was that some of the worms were for the babies.
Two days ago I spotted one of the babies perched on the pole above the mealworm feeder… yellow mouth wide open and screaming his little head off! It was truly a terrific site and gave me hope that more of the five are thriving.
Bluebirds covet mealworms, in fact, I’ve discovered that lots of birds love these tasty morsels. In trying to attract bluebirds to this North Georgia yard, first came the bluebird house…but no luck. Then came a bluebird feeder, you know, the kind with the entrance holes that supposedly only bluebirds will fly into for food. Unfortunately that didn’t seem to work either, every different “bluebird delight” on the market was used.
After some quick research, it seemed live mealworms would do the trick, so I squeamishly ordered the first batch. They weren’t too bad, as long as I didn’t have to touch them! Unpacking and storing that first batch was pretty funny looking back at it now. Newspaper spread on the counter, latex gloves, and a semi-faint heart about the whole thing. Then just knowing I had a container of live worms in the fridge…omg! But I wanted to see bluebirds – so I persevered.
Not only did it work, it worked great…Eastern Bluebirds in my yard finally. Two or three showed up at first, and then they began to build a nest in the house. Watching the daily activity was fantastic. A few weeks later the babies started to fledge, one, two, three, four of them, all following mom and dad. Truly a great season! It didn’t take long for them to figure out how to enter the mealworm feeder and retrieve their own worms at will. The coolest thing is there was a second successful brood that season too. Watching the juveniles with the new fledgelings was absolutely awesome. Now I’m addicted to meal worms just as much as my bluebirds are. Making sure to feed them twice every day, close to the same time. My new friends stuck around all winter, likely due to the three heated birdbaths, and the regular feeding schedule.
Traditional bluebird feeders aren’t the only way to offer mealworms to feathered friends. Many dish-type styles have attachments for poles, making it simple to add a mealworm feeder to any existing feeding station. Tray type or platform feeders also have the capacity for worms, but there’s no guarantee the bluebirds will get them first. Maybe that’s where the saying “early bird catches the worm” comes from?
This recycled plastic mealworm feeder easily mounts to any standard one-inch diameter pole. The wooden Siamese Cat has a metal screen tray that’s perfect for offering worms too. The best part about these types of feeders is versatility. Foods like suet, peanuts and fruit may also be offered, depending on the species you’d like to attract and season.
In order to entice bluebirds, sometimes their very favorite food must be offered. And meal worms happen to be what’s on the menu over here. Live mealworms are best, but dried or roasted ones will also work. One of the problems is that many species really enjoy mealworms, and you can find your supply dwindling quickly if fed in an open tray-type or dish feeder. Live mealworms are available in bulk quantities should this become habit forming too. They’re simple to store…just place in in a container in your fridge. Air holes are needed, but the worms stay in a dormant state until warmed up by the sun or room temperatures.
A mealworm feeder that’s made especially for bluebirds is one that is enclosed, in fact they’re called Bluebird Feeders. Consisting of two, four, or sometimes six entrances, they have clear acrylic panels for closures, and they’re meant for bluebirds only. Some feeders have a dish in the center for the worms, while others have a recessed circle for them. The birds must fly into the feeder to retrieve the worms, and very few species will try this. But somehow, the natural instinct of bluebirds tells them to do so. It’s amazing to watch, especially when parent bring babies over at feeding time. At first the chicks don’t understand how to get inside, but they learn quickly. And once they learn how to get the food, they frequent the feeder often. This has got to be one of the best scenes of backyard birding!
Available in standard wooden models, mealworm feeders also come in recycled plastic versions. The advantage with recycled plastic is that the feeder will never crack, split, or rot like wood tends to do over the years. Also keeping plastics out of landfills is huge plus to the environment.
Now I wish the nasty starling who tried to shove himself through one of the entrances would’ve gotten stuck there!