What Birds Eat Mealworms?
There are many wild birds that eat mealworms, most of the soft-billed birds, and quite a few of the perching birds will eat them too. They are particularly popular during nesting time, as they are a nutritious food that will help the babies grow and develop into healthy adult birds. If you add mealworms to your bird table you will spot some or all of the following:
- Blue Tits
- Great Tits
- House Sparrows
- Long Tailed Tits
- Pied Wagtails
- Plus any other birds that frequent your garden
Most birds can’t resist snacking on mealworms especially when every other bird in the garden is eating them. Sometimes even pigeons and doves will eat mealworms but they aren’t really that fond of them.
How Are Mealworms Supplied?
You can purchase live mealworms, dried mealworms or coated mealworms. Wild birds prefer live mealworms as they are full of juice which helps with the birds water intake, but dried are just as popular with many birds.
Feeding Birds Live Mealworms
Because they are alive, and don’t particularly want to be eaten, the live mealworms are liable to escape their fate if at all possible. You can obtain mealworm feeders from pet food stores or you can place them in a smooth sided dish with straight sides (so they can’t climb out). Be sure the containers have smooth sides as if the container has rough sides the mealworms will be able to climb out. Dishes should be at least 2 inches (5cm) deep.
Feeding Birds Dried Mealworms
Dried mealworms can be placed in dishes or other containers around the garden, they will of course keep longer than live mealworms but if they haven’t been eaten within a few days they should be thrown away. You can mix dried mealworms with seeds, fruit, and suet pellets to tempt more variety of birds to your garden.
Feeding Birds Coated Mealworms
Mealworms can be bought coated in suet, these make a nutritious meal for wild birds because of the extra fat content (especially during Winter months). Suet coated mealworms store for a long time in a cool dark place.
Is It OK To Feed Baby Birds Mealworms?
It’s not ok for us to go near the nest and feed the young, in fact it’s not ok for us to approach the nest at all. But the adults will take mealworms and feed them to their babies and that’s perfectly fine. For baby birds live mealworms are the best as they provide both protein and liquid. It’s the liquid that’s most important, as unlike adults who can find sources of water to drink from, the babies are dependent on whatever the parents give them.
Soaking Dried Mealworms
As mentioned above, the only moisture baby birds have access to is from whatever the parents feed to them. If you don’t have any live mealworms, or you don’t fancy handling them at all, don’t despair. Just soak dried mealworms in a bowl of clean water for around 30 minutes and they will have absorbed enough moisture to be perfect food for wild birds and their young.
Where To Place Mealworms To Attract More Birds
If this is your first time using mealworms as a feed for wild birds in your garden, be sure to place them in an easy to see place from a bird’s perspective. This means somewhere in the open where birds can spot them as they fly over your garden. Also in a safe place, where cats or any other predators can’t hide and attack the birds as they feed. Maybe near one of your usual feeders might be a good starting point.
As a bird watcher you are probably already aware of the need for patience, it’s exactly the same with feeding any new type of food to the birds. It takes them time to get used to anything new in their feeding area.
But once the odd one or two adventurous birds have sampled the delights of fresh (or dried) mealworms, others will follow and very soon you will have more birds than you have feed for. When we first placed a bowl of dried mealworms out, we thought that maybe the birds we had coming to our feeders never liked mealworms. But soon we were having to buy more mealworms than any other food for the birds, it just takes a little patience.
How Nutrient Are Mealworms?
The nutrient value of mealworms varies depending on whether they are dry or live. Both are good feed for wild birds and they will soon eat whichever type you put out for them but in case you are interested in the nutritious values we have placed them below in a table.
|Nutrients||Live Mealworms||Dried Mealworms|
What Are Mealworms?
Regardless of their name, mealworms are not really worms at all. They are the larval stage of a beetle, Tenebrio Molitor which is a darkling beetle. They are found in the wild in Europe and as they have spread (with man’s help) they are now found all over the world. In many parts of the world they are considered pests as they eat grain.
They remain as larvae for around 2 months before turning into darkling beetles. Although if the temperature is too cold they remain as larvae for much longer.
If you leave some mealworms at ground level for the robins, blackbirds and other ground feeders, be sure there are none left over at night. Not only will this encourage rats and other rodents but you will also attract hedgehogs. Now ordinarily attracting hedgehogs should be encouraged as they are a declining species but as mealworms contain a high level of phosphates, and high levels of phosphates can cause calcium deficiencies in hedgehogs. This can cause bone diseases in hedgehogs making them unable to walk.
We already know that the hedgehog population is in decline in the UK but did you know that numbers in rural areas have fallen by 50% and in urban areas the numbers have fallen by 30% since the millennium. There is no single cause and we are all aware of some of the contributing factors like:
- Loss of habitat
- A rise in badger numbers which affects food supply
- Road accidents
- Secondary poisoning due to slug and other pest controls
So we don’t want to be adding to the problems by causing calcium deficiency through allowing them to eat mealworms left over from the day’s bird feeding frenzy.
Frequently Asked Questions
The garden birds that eat mealworms in the UK are Starlings,Thrushes, Blackbirds, Robins, BlueTits, Great Tits, House Sparrows,Siskins.Dunnocks, Long Tailed Tits, Pied Wagtails, Blackcaps. Plus any other birds that frequent your garden.
Dried mealworms are not bad for birds, but during nesting season it is best if you can soak them in water for around 30 minutes so that the babies get enough moisture from the food the parents bring back to the nest.
Mealworms turn into darkling beetles which help to keep the garden tidy by eating all decaying and rotting plant materials.