Safely feeding wild birds in Australia…

Author: Chris Read   Date Posted: 26 May 2020 

Live mealworms are the healthy answer……. Humble mince and dog food is continuing to hurt Australia’s favourite birds including Magpies and Kookaburras…. feeding live insects is a healthy answer for those that want to feed our wild birds.

 

Picture 1: Kookaburra waiting for live mealworm treat

Millions of Australian’s love interacting with our wildlife and most care deeply for them… in fact between a third and two thirds of all Australian households regularly feed wild birds to get the connection and pleasure from interacting with them.  This is regardless of the “Don’t Feed The Bird“ signs that are ubiquitous in Australian parks.

Picture 2: Antechinus (Marcupial Mouse) enjoys live mealworm treat

Feeding Mince to Australian Birds

Some of these people feed mince, dog food and raw meat to native carnivore birds like Magpies, Kookaburras, and Australian Butcher Birds. These people believe that they are being kind, however this kindness actually causes significant damage to the health of the birds.

It is very clear that feeding human and dog food such as mince to wild birds often leads to nutritional imbalances, increases the risk of disease and causes birds to become undernourished and more susceptible to disease. This is because mince is high in fat, salt, phosphorous and low in calcium. This combination cause birds to get weak, become disfigured, break their bones, bird eggs not developing and baby birds in the nest to die early. 

Charitable people who feed mince, raw meat and dog food to their wildlife friends often never see the actual damage that it causes. The simple rule is anything processed or not whole is going to negatively affect wild birds and should be avoided, even after emergencies such as bushfires, etc.

So mince, dog food and raw meats are clearly out….  so what’s next? People “in the know” (including some prominent Australian birding guides) that want to attract wild birds use “whole foods” and there is nothing more “whole” than live insects. The easiest  live insects to purchase and store in Australia are live mealworms.

                                                 

                                 Picture 3: Family of Willie Wagtails begging for a live mealworom treat                          Picture 4: Baby Yellow Robin begging for live mealworm from mum

What are Mealworms?

Mealworms (Tenebrio molitor) are the flightless larvae of the Darkling Beetle. They are commonly used to feed aviary birds such as Gouldian finches to help improve the success of  breeding, chooks as a protein boost to help with quality egg production and also as a common treat for pet reptiles and frogs. 

Picture 5: Antechinus (Marcupial Mouse) enjoys live mealworm treat

Many eco-gardeners also believe that feeding wild-birds in their yard with live mealworms naturally encourages insect foraging birds that keep their garden cleaner of pests without using chemicals.

Nutritional value of Mealworms?

Live mealworms are an ideal source of protein and calcium for many types of birds including carnivorous meat eaters and seed-eating birds. They are especially valuable and important at breeding time. 

What Birds Eat Live Mealworms?

Live mealworms attract many carnivorous and insect eating birds such as Australian Magpies, Kookaburras, Willie Wagtails, Grey Thrush, Butcher Birds, Finches, Robins  and Scrub Turkeys. 

                      Picture 6: Painted Button Quail sneaking of with a live mealworm treat                          Picture 7: Emerald Dove enjoying a live mealworm protein boost
 
A friend in Brisbane, Ed uses live mealworms and live crickets to attract wild birds for his wildlife photography. As well as attracting the birds listed above, he has fed and photographed spectacular native rainforest birds with live mealworms including Russet tailed Thrushes, Noisy Pitta, Painted Buttn-Quail, Emerald Doves, White-Browed Scrub-Wrens and Variegated Wrens.
 
              Picture 8: White-Browed Scrub Wren feedingit's young with a live cricket                                          Picture 9: Curious Australian Magpie eating live mealworm treat
 
Ed also feeds Eastern Water Dragons and Native Catfish with both mealworms and live crickets.

                      Picture 10: Eel-Tailed Catfish enjoying live cricket treats                                 Picture 11: Family of Eastern Water Dragins and Kookaburra compete for live mealworm feast

Another wildlife guide uses live mealworms to attract and feed Squirrel Gliders, Sugar Gliders, Feathertail Gliders,  and Marsupial Mouse (Antechinus).

                                             Picture 12: Antechinus feasting on live mealworm                                                   Picture 13: Yellow Robin snacking on live cricket treat

Both only occasionally feed the local native wildlife to ensure that the wildlife doesn’t become reliant on the bonus food. The great majority of their diets remain from wild natural sources.

How Do I Feed Live Mealworms to My Wild Birds?

Feed mealworms straight from the container or transfer them to glass or crockery bowls with 5cm high sides – slippery sides prevent their escape. The birds will pick the live mealworms out of the bran. Clean any areas that you feed birds to ensure they remain hygienic and disease free.

How Many Mealworms Should I Feed Wild Birds?

You can feed up to once or twice a day, early in the morning and late in the afternoon. Feed small birds (e.g. wrens and wagtails) up to 5 mealworms each meal. Feed medium sized birds (eg: butcherbirds and kingfishers) no more than 10 per meal. Feed large birds (eg: magpies and kookaburras) ten to twenty per meal.

Picture 14: Live mealworms

Avoid overfeeding: Live mealworms should be fed to wildlife as a treat.

How do You Store Mealworms?

Live mealworms are easy to store. Just keep them in the fridge in their bran substrate and they will hibernate for many months. They have no odour in the fridge. Refer to PetWave Mealworm CareSheet for more information. They are usually sold in plastic tubs for small quantities or calico bags when buying live mealorms online in bulk.  

Where to Buy Live Mealworms?

The simplest and cheapest way of purchasing live mealworms in Australia is online at PetWave. Live mealworms are delivered overnight across Australia.

Picture 14: Rainforest Specialist Noisy Pitta eating a live mealworm

What if I don’t Like Live Insects?

Live mealworms are one of the cleanest live insects but if they are still too gross for you, then dried insects could be a reasonable compromise. Although not as nutritious or interesting to wild birds, dried insects are far healthy than any processed foods such as mince, bread or pet food can therefore also be used as a healthy treat for wild birds.

About PetWave

PetWave is an Australian online pet supply company that is expert in shipping delicate, live and frozen reptile and aquarium products to you and your pet’s door across Australia. Order before 7:30am for next day delivery. 

PetWave are very proud to offer the highest quality and largest selection of live aquarium fish, aquarium plants, live reptile food including live insects, frozen feeders especially for snakes, lizards, frogs and birds of prey and many other beautiful decorations for your aquarium and terrarium. 

Try some mealworms today at PetWave at www.petwave.com.au or email customercare@petwave.com.au

            

 

 


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