Tooth, texture… that’s what it’s all about here. If the surface of the feeder is not smooth as glass, the wiggly, crawly delights get hold and simply crawl right out! Now this is a huge advantage to ground feeding birds like robins – ours actually sit and wait below the mealworm feeder. But for bluebirds, chickadees, nuthatches, warblers, swallows and titmice, they have to swoop down to catch their worms if they’ve all crawled out.
So what’s the point of using a hanging dish feeder if worms end up on the ground? Not much! If you’re feeding live worms, it’s best to use a feeder that has absolutely no texture on the inside surface. Worms will stay put longer, and while juveniles are learning to use feeders, this is helpful.
An open dish type feeder will also accommodate a good variety of other treats to entice wild birds. Oranges used in this double-dish model have orioles flocking and teaching babies where the good stuff is! Suet chunks and peanuts are also good options for winter feeding.
Smooth, plexi-glass meal worm feeders like this are available in staked, hanging and even pole-mounted options. They’re durable for year-round use and dishwasher safe. Birds can perch anywhere on the dish – making it easier to land and feed. The vertical hangers are long enough to use with a weather guard, or even a baffle should squirrels be a problem around your place.
If you’re on the squeamish side and can’t bear the thought of live worms, birds will also go for dried worms. In fact they pack more protein per serving! Consider a dish style mealworm feeder this season… they work great for more than just worms!
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.
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 🙂
Waaay cool, the makers of the Sky Cafe have created a mealworm feeder specifically for bluebirds. The new Sky Cafe is totally squirrel proof for starters. The design will keep larger birds out, thus saving precious mealworms for your bluebirds. The large baffle, or hat, also protects food and birds from the elements. A high quality mealworm feeder that may be pole mounted or hung, you know will be around for many years of use and enjoyment
There are lots of groovy dish-type mealworm feeders out there, but as soon as birds discover the tasty morsels, the worms will disappear in no time flat! Seems lots of birds love mealworms… especially live ones.
If you’re forever running to the store in order to keep your mealworm feeder filled, you may want to consider buying them in bulk. It’s far more economical if you’re feeding live worms. Stored in the fridge, the worms stay in a dormant state until they’re warmed up, so no worries of creepy-crawly things in your fridge! The bedding used is nothing more than wheat bran, purchased at your local grocery store.
If you’ve been trying to attract bluebirds with no luck…live worms are the ticket! Bluebirds seem to find this precious food source quickly, and will stick around if mealworms are fed on a consistent basis. Our bluebirds have braved the tough winters of North Georgia for the past few years now… ever since their mealworm feeder is always stocked with live worms. The heated baths help too, and it’s got to be this combination that has allowed us to witness so many successful broods!
Here’s to spring!