‘Tis the season, bluebirds are busy claiming territory, finding mates and already nesting in many parts of the country. Because they typically have 2-3 broods per season, it’s not too late to entice them to your place with quality bluebird houses.
Open spaces best suit blues, with places to perch and swoop up insects. They’ll perch on lower limbs of nearby trees, on top of birdhouses, and even on feeder poles. Not only to hunt prey, but to keep a watchful eye over their box and nestlings as well. They’re such tentative parents, with mom & dad’s teamwork accounting for successful fledges!
Vinyl bluebird houses rock because they’ll never deteriorate like wood. The light color is better for late summer scorching temperatures too. This copper roof bluebird house is complete with predator guard and removable roof for easy nest clean-out. It mounts on a standard 4×4 post… no tools required!
The Gilbertson nest Box is also mighty popular among blues. Vinyl with a birch appearance, it’s a great design if you’re up for monitoring nests (recommended). Be polite and always knock first (well, tap) before checking nests!
The secret sauce? In an attempt to bring bluebirds to our yards, and after exhausting all other food treats to lure them, many folks finally resort to offering live mealworms. They do the trick! But what soon happens with many bird addicts (like any addiction) is we’re feeding too many worms and the bird’s diet is skewed.
Extremely high in protein, too many worms can cause problems for female blues during nesting season. Something called egg bound, where she becomes unable to pass/lay her egg. It’s fatal most times, and really sad when seasoned bluebird monitors discover this. It can and does happen in the wild without gorging on meal worms too.
So if you’ve got the bluebird itch and find yourself feeding lots of worms during nesting season, this supplement helps lower the chance of females becoming egg-bound. Calcium carbonate powder is widely available online, or maybe at your local health and nutrition store.
Just a little in the container with a few shakes & swirls to lightly dust worms is perfect. Doesn’t that sound yummy? 🙂 It also helps other females during nesting season should they be partaking (or stealing) your mealies!
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.