Catbird & Mealworms
How many mealworms
How many mealworms can a Gray Catbird carry when she's taking a meal home to her babies?
That is what the catbird I know affectionately as Kitty seems to ask when she visits me every morning on the porch. Like it's her personal challenge.
What amazes me most is the way she keeps picking up another and another. Sometimes she drops one, but mostly she somehow keeps them in place as she jabs her bill into the little dish for more.
Mealworms not worms
Actually the mealworms are not worms at all. They are caterpillars. The larval stage of a darkling beetle, whose scientific name is Tenebrio molitor.
This caterpillar is tasty and nutritious. It's often fed to pet reptiles. Many nesting birds favor them also. Although there is some concern that a solid diet of mealworms might be deficient in calcium, there is apparently no harm in supplementing the diet of baby birds by making mealworms available to the parents, in reasonable quantities. That is to say, a maximum of about 15 mealworms per day for each bird including the babies. That is ample to motivate the birds to come a flying when they see you outside.
I have found that many species take them eagerly while feeding nestlings and fledgelings. Especially bluebirds, catbirds, House Wrens, Eastern Phoebes, and American Robins. I always keep a supply on hand during nesting season to entice birds to come closer to me.
You can buy mealworms at pet supply stores. Or order them online. Our Birdwatching Dot Com store does a brisk business in mealworms during spring. Check them out here.
Diane Porter, Fairfield, Iowa. May 27, 2022