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What Birds Eat Mealworms: Feeding Tips for Backyard Birders | Garden Guide (2024)

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what birds eat mealwormsKill two birds with one stone—lure some feathered friends onto your property and improve your garden. The following article will help you learn the kinds of birds that feed on mealworms and the best way to present such healthy food.

You will discover which types of birds are drawn by mealworms, what advantages they contribute, and some helpful tips about their feeding. I will show you how to make a friendly environment for mealworm-loving species, whether you are an experienced birder or just starting.

From live to dried, feeder types, and seasonal considerations—let’s dive into the details for creating an optimum backyard bird feeding experience.

Key Takeaways

  • Mealworms are the avian equivalent of fast food – irresistible, protein-packed, and perfect for birds on the go. From bluebirds to chickadees, these wiggly treats are like ringing the dinner bell for your feathered friends.
  • Live or dried? That’s the million-dollar question. While live mealworms might have birds lining up around the block, dried ones are the ultimate low-maintenance option. It’s like choosing between fresh-baked cookies and store-bought – both delicious, but one’s a lot easier on the chef!
  • Timing is everything in the bird buffet business. Serve up those mealworms during breeding season or migration, and you’ll be the talk of the avian town. It’s like offering free coffee during finals week – your popularity will soar!
  • DIY mealworm farming isn’t just for the birds – it’s a fascinating hobby that’ll have you feeling like a miniature rancher. Just remember, if your family finds a container of wiggling worms in the fridge, you might have some explaining to do!

What Birds Eat Mealworms?

Many birds will eat mealworms, and indeed, mealworms have been one of the staples in many backyard birders’ offerings for years. Common species such as bluebirds, chickadees, wrens, and nuthatches are regular mealworm lovers. You’ll also get some ground feeders like robins and thrushes. Woodpeckers and titmice join in the feast, usually along with warblers and flycatchers making rare appearances.

Mealworms provide significant nutritional benefits to help fuel birds’ energetic activities and support their health. You can offer live or dried mealworms in platform feeders or shallow dishes. Place them near some vegetation to provide a place for the birds to take cover. Be aware of seasonal needs and offer more during breeding and migration periods.

Now that you know which birds eat mealworms, you’ll get so much more from your birding activity, and you will do your local avian populations a good turn.

What Are Mealworms?

What Are Mealworms
Mealworms aren’t actually worms at all – they’re the larval stage of darkling beetles. These fascinating creatures go through a complete metamorphosis, starting as tiny eggs and eventually emerging as adult beetles. In between, you’ll find the mealworm stage, which is what birds find so irresistible.

These protein-packed larvae thrive in warm, dark environments, making mealworm farming a popular hobby for bird enthusiasts. They’re not picky eaters, munching on grains, vegetables, and even cardboard. While live mealworms are a bird’s top choice, dried mealworms offer a convenient alternative.

Mealworms are nutritional powerhouses, packed with protein, healthy fats, and essential vitamins. Their soft exoskeletons make them easy for birds to digest, unlike some tougher insects.

Whether you’re buying them or diving into mealworm farming, these little larvae are sure to become a hit in your backyard bird buffet.

Why Birds Love Mealworms

Why Birds Love Mealworms
You’ll find that birds are naturally drawn to mealworms due to their high nutritional value, ease of digestion, and similarity to insects they’d encounter in the wild. These protein-packed larvae provide essential nutrients that support birds’ energy needs, feather growth, and overall health, making them an ideal supplementary food source for your backyard visitors.

Nutritional Benefits

Mealworms supplement a nutritious boost for your feathered friend. They’re rich in protein and calcium, both of which are very important to the excellent health of birds. The Cornel Lab of Ornithology maintains mealworms as one of the highest-quality supplements for avian insectivorous species. Just remember, moderation is key when serving these tasty treats.

Easy to Digest

Mealworms’ soft bodies make them a breeze for birds to digest. Their small size and lack of hard shells mean less work for avian digestive systems. When you’re storing mealworms for your backyard birds, remember that their easy digestibility also means they won’t last long once thawed.

Natural Food Source

Mealworms aren’t just easy to digest; they’re a natural food source birds encounter in the wild. You’re mimicking nature when offering these protein-packed treats. In mealworm hunting, birds find larvae, beetles, and frass. Even hedgehogs join the feast, highlighting the ecological importance of these insects.

Types of Birds That Eat Mealworms

Types of Birds That Eat Mealworms
You’ll find that mealworms attract a variety of common backyard birds, including bluebirds, chickadees, wrens, and nuthatches. While these species are frequent visitors to mealworm feeders, you might also spot some rare or unexpected guests like warblers or thrushes if you’re lucky.

Common Backyard Species

Many common birds in your backyard eagerly gobble up mealworms; bluebirds, chickadees, and wrens are top contenders and quite often the first to dine. Ground feeders—robins and thrushes—will gladly snatch these protein-packed treats.

Don’t be surprised to see titmice, nuthatches, and even woodpeckers joining in. For these birds, mealworms represent very high nutritional value and ease of availability.

Whether you use a platform feeder or scatter them on the ground, mealworms will draw in a very diversified crowd.

Rare Visitors

While common backyard birds often dominate your mealworm supply, you might attract some rare visitors too. These less-frequent guests can add excitement to your bird-watching experience. Keep an eye out for:

  • Warblers passing through during migration
  • Flycatchers seeking protein-rich snacks
  • Thrushes venturing from nearby woodlands
  • Unusual woodpecker species
  • Orioles looking for a tasty treat

Be patient and maintain a consistent mealworm offering. You’ll increase your chances of spotting these special feathered friends while considering habitat preferences and potential food competition.

Live Vs. Dried Mealworms for Birds

Live Vs. Dried Mealworms for Birds
When choosing between live and dried mealworms for your backyard birds, you’ll need to weigh the pros and cons of each option. Live mealworms are more appealing to birds but require more maintenance, while dried mealworms offer convenience but may be less attractive to some species.

Pros and Cons

When considering live mealworms vs. dried mealworms for your feathered friends, you’ll want to weigh the pros and cons. Here’s a quick breakdown:

Factor Live Mealworms Dried Mealworms
Cost Higher Lower
Effectiveness More attractive Less appealing
Convenience Requires care Ready to use
Storage Refrigerate Room temperature

Live mealworms are a hit during winter and nesting season, but dried options offer year-round convenience. Your choice depends on your budget, time, and the birds you’re aiming to attract.

Bird Preferences

Even though both types have their merits, most birds prefer live mealworms over the dried version. Movement in live mealworms catches the eye, just as in nature it would.

If you’re using the dried mealworms for convenience, don’t worry. You can increase their acceptability by soaking the worms in warm water or dripping a tiny amount of mealworm flavoring.

Proper storage and conservation make or break how fresh your mealworms will be.

One could establish a small habitat for mealworms or cook mealworms in different ways to mix things up.

How to Offer Mealworms to Wild Birds

How to Offer Mealworms to Wild Birds
Mealworms for wild birds will have to be served with a view to offering the right feeder type and considerations on placement. Serving mealworms on platform feeders or in shallow dishes works well while locating them near vegetation but away from windows attracts many birds safely.

Feeder Types

Now that you’ve decided between live and dried mealworms, let’s explore the best feeder types for serving these treats. Depending on bird preferences and weather conditions, you’ll want to choose a suitable style.

Platform feeders are popular, offering easy access for ground-feeding species. Dish feeders work well too, especially when attached to existing setups.

Remember to clean feeders regularly to prevent mold and bacteria growth.

Consider specialized mealworm feeders for targeted feeding of specific birds.

Placement Tips

Consider bird preference and seasonal variation when placing your mealworm feeder.

Place near shrubs or trees for quick cover but not so close that a predator could be hiding. Aim for morning sun and afternoon shade.

Experiment with heights to find out what time of day works best for the birds in your area.

Keep an eye out for unwanted visitors like squirrels and adjust sites accordingly.

When to Feed Birds Mealworms

When to Feed Birds Mealworms
When offering mealworms to birds, consider both seasonal needs and daily feeding patterns. You’ll find that birds benefit most from mealworms during breeding season and migration periods, while early morning and late afternoon are typically the best times of day for feeding.

Seasonal Considerations

While mealworms can be given to birds throughout the year, they’re more beneficial during certain seasons.

In winter, when other natural food sources are unavailable, mealworms are very valuable for nutrition and energy. During the spring breeding season, they’re crucial for nesting parents and growing chicks.

Seasonal availability may impact your feeding schedule. Consider stocking up on dried mealworms when live mealworms are hard to come by so you can offer this healthy treat without any hassle all year long.

Time of Day

While seasonal considerations are important, don’t forget about the time of day for mealworm feeding. Birds have specific preferences and daily routines. To maximize your mealworm availability and appeal, consider these tips:

  • Offer mealworms in the early morning when birds are most active
  • Provide a midday snack for species that forage throughout the day
  • Experiment with late afternoon feedings to support birds preparing for nighttime

Adjust your daily feeding schedule based on the seasonal mealworm feeding patterns you’ve observed in your backyard.

Raising Mealworms for Bird Feeding

Raising Mealworms for Bird Feeding
To raise mealworms for bird feeding, you’ll need a shallow plastic container with a perforated lid, wheat bran or oatmeal as bedding, and some apple slices for moisture. Maintain your mealworm colony by keeping them in a cool, dark place, regularly removing frass (waste), and providing fresh food sources like carrots or potatoes.

Setup Requirements

To raise mealworms for your feathered friends, you’ll need some basic equipment. Here’s a quick guide to get you started:

Item Purpose Recommendation
Container Housing Plastic bin with lid
Substrate Bedding Wheat bran or oatmeal
Food Mealworm diet Carrot slices, potato
Moisture Hydration Damp sponge or cloth

Choose a cool, dark location for your mealworm farm. Monitor closely and adjust conditions as needed. With proper setup, you’ll have a steady supply for your backyard birds.

Maintenance Tips

For the mealworm colony, a few things will have to be maintained. Take care of their cleanliness and add fresh food in time. The temperature and humidity conditions within this area should be appropriate for their growth. Here are some basic maintenance guidelines:

  • Sifting the bedding once a week gets rid of waste and prevents mold
  • Rotate food sources to maintain nutritional value
  • Separate beetles from larvae to control population

    • Check regularly for signs of disease or parasites

Potential Risks and Considerations

Potential Risks and Considerations
While mealworms can be a nutritious treat for birds, you’ll need to be cautious about overfeeding, as excessive consumption may lead to nutritional imbalances. Additionally, be aware that offering mealworms might attract unwanted visitors like rodents or larger predatory birds to your feeding area.

Overfeeding Concerns

While growing mealworms is a very fulfilling process in feeding birds, what’s most important is monitoring how many mealworms you’re offering.

Overfeeding can cause illness and damage to adults and babies. Be careful for signs of overfeeding, such as lethargy or weight gain.

Remember that mealworms are a treat, not the main course. Stick with about 100 daily, and you’ll have healthy and happy feathered friends.

Attracting Unwanted Visitors

While mealworms are a treat for birds, they can attract unwanted guests to your yard. To minimize this risk, consider these precautions:

  1. Use enclosed feeders to deter larger animals
  2. Clean up spilled mealworms promptly
  3. Bring feeders in at night
  4. Avoid overfeeding

Raccoons, opossums, and squirrels are common nuisance animals drawn to mealworms. By taking these steps, you’ll keep your feathered friends happy while discouraging uninvited dinner guests from crashing the party.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Do wild birds eat mealworms?

Indeed, wild birds do eat mealworms. They’re among the favorite treats of many species, such as bluebirds, chickadees, and wrens. Very frequently, these feathered friends can be seen pecking away in excitement at their feeders or in natural surroundings.

Should I soak dried mealworms for birds?

Yes, you should soak dried mealworms for birds. It’ll rehydrate them, making them more appealing and easier to eat. Soak them in lukewarm water for 15-30 minutes before serving. This’ll increase their nutritional value and attractiveness to your feathered friends.

Will squirrels eat mealworms?

Like a furry acrobat at a buffet, your backyard squirrels might nibble on mealworms. They’re opportunistic eaters, so while it’s not their go-to snack, they’ll likely sample these protein-packed treats if they’re readily available in bird feeders.

How do you put out mealworms for birds?

Place mealworms in a shallow dish or platform feeder. Position it near vegetation for safety, but away from windows. You’ll want to offer about 100 worms daily. For dried mealworms, soak them briefly to increase appeal.

Can mealworms replace seed in a birds diet?

Mealworms can be a great treat but shouldn’t make up most of your bird’s diet. They can be provided as a protein supplement in the diet and not as a staple diet. Besides, birds need a good variety of nutrition to be healthy.

Do mealworms attract unwanted pests to bird feeders?

You’ll want to be cautious when offering mealworms. They can attract unwanted pests like rats or raccoons. To minimize this risk, use enclosed feeders, clean up spills promptly, and consider offering mealworms only during daylight hours.

How long can mealworms survive in outdoor feeders?

Did you know that mealworms can survive up to 5 days in outdoor feeders? You’ll want to check and refresh them daily, though. They’ll last longer in cool, shaded areas but can dry out quickly in direct sunlight.

Are there any birds that should avoid eating mealworms?

While most birds can safely enjoy mealworms, you’ll want to be cautious with young nestlings. Their delicate digestive systems aren’t equipped to handle these protein-rich treats. It’s best to stick with softer foods for baby birds.

Can feeding mealworms change birds natural foraging behaviors?

Imagine a chickadee giving up its innate search for insects. You can imagine how offering mealworms might change the foraging behavior of birds: They can become dependent on the feeder, and their natural food-searching behaviors fade. It’s essential to find a balance in supplemental feeding.


Mealworms offer a great way for you to transform your yard into a bird oasis, much like a well-stocked buffet. You’ll be learning in this article what birds eat mealworms and exactly how to provide this healthy treat effectively. These feeding tips will enable you to attract different species while supporting their diet.

Remember feeder types, seasonal timing, and risks associated with the process.

Now, with this valuable knowledge, you have some tips to help create a healthy, bird-friendly ecosystem in your yard while simultaneously improving your garden for maximum advantage. Happy birding!

Avatar for Mutasim Sweileh

Mutasim Sweileh

Mutasim Sweileh is a passionate bird enthusiast and author with a deep love for avian creatures. With years of experience studying and observing birds in their natural habitats, Mutasim has developed a profound understanding of their behavior, habitats, and conservation. Through his writings, Mutasim aims to inspire others to appreciate and protect the beautiful world of birds.