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Feeding Mealworms to Birds – Full Guide with Tips

Updated: Apr 18, 2023

Feeding birds is a fun and rewarding hobby that many people enjoy. While there are many different types of bird food available, mealworms are a great option to add to your feeding routine. Not only are they high in protein and easy to store, but they are also a favorite food of many bird species. Here is a full guide with tips on feeding mealworms to birds.

What are Mealworms?

Mealworms are the larval stage of the darkling beetle. They are commonly used as food for birds, reptiles, and other animals because of their high protein content. Mealworms are also easy to store and can be kept in the refrigerator for several weeks.

The Better Food Source: Dried Versus Live

When it comes to feeding animals, particularly insects, there are two main options: dried or live. Insects such as crickets, mealworms, and black soldier flies are commonly fed to pets, such as reptiles and birds, as well as backyard wildlife. So, which is the better food source – dried or live?

Live Insects

Live insects are often seen as the more natural option when it comes to feeding animals. They are high in protein and other nutrients, and some animals prefer to hunt and eat live prey. Live insects are also less processed and may be more nutritionally complete than their dried counterparts.

However, there are some downsides to feeding live insects. For one, they can be more difficult to store and transport. They may also be more expensive than dried insects, and some pet owners may not be comfortable handling live insects.

Dried Insects

Dried insects are a popular choice for feeding pets because they are easy to store and transport. They also have a longer shelf life than live insects and may be more affordable.

Dried insects also have some benefits in terms of nutrition. They are often fortified with additional vitamins and minerals, which may not be present in live insects. They are also less likely to carry parasites or diseases that could harm your pets.

Types of Birds that Eat Mealworms

Many different types of birds enjoy eating mealworms, including bluebirds, robins, wrens, chickadees, nuthatches, and woodpeckers. You can also attract other insect-eating birds, such as warblers and thrushes, by offering mealworms.

How to Feed Mealworms to Birds

There are several ways to feed mealworms to birds. Here are a few options:

  1. Offer mealworms in a tray feeder: You can purchase a specialized mealworm feeder or simply use a tray feeder to offer mealworms to your birds. Place the feeder in a visible area near your other bird feeders.

  2. Mix mealworms in with other bird food: Many bird feed mixes contain mealworms. You can also add them to your own bird food mix or sprinkle them on top of your birdseed.

  3. Offer mealworms in a dish: If you prefer, you can offer mealworms in a dish or saucer. Place the dish near your other bird feeders.

Tips for Feeding Mealworms to Birds

  1. Start small: If you have never fed mealworms to birds before, start with a small amount to see how your birds respond.

  2. Store mealworms properly: Mealworms can be kept in the refrigerator for several weeks. Keep them in a plastic container with some oatmeal or bran to absorb moisture.

  3. Clean your feeding equipment: Make sure to clean your feeding equipment regularly to prevent the spread of disease.

  4. Offer mealworms year-round: While mealworms are a great option during the spring and summer breeding season, they can also be offered year-round.

Can You Train Birds to Eat Mealworms Out of Your Hand?

Yes, you can train birds to eat mealworms out of your hand with patience and perseverance. However, it is important to keep in mind that not all birds will be comfortable with this and it may take some time to build trust with the birds in your backyard.

Here are some tips for training birds to eat mealworms out of your hand:

  1. Start by offering mealworms in a tray or feeder near your feeding station. This will help birds become familiar with the sight and smell of mealworms.

  2. Slowly move the feeder closer to you over time, until it is next to you or in your hand.

  3. Offer mealworms in your hand with an open palm. At first, you may need to hold your hand still until the birds become comfortable with your presence.

  4. Be patient and don't make sudden movements. It may take several days or even weeks for birds to become comfortable with eating from your hand.

  5. Use mealworms as a reward for birds that come close to you or eat from your hand. This will help to reinforce positive behavior.

  6. Avoid offering too many mealworms at once. Birds can overeat and become dependent on handouts, which can be detrimental to their health and survival in the wild.

  7. Always wash your hands before handling mealworms to prevent the spread of disease.


Feeding birds is a great way to connect with nature and help support local wildlife populations. Whether you choose to feed birds with live or dried mealworms, it is important to do so responsibly and with the birds' best interests in mind. By following proper feeding techniques and taking steps to minimize the risk of disease, we can help ensure that birds thrive in our backyards and communities for years to come.

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