Of Cherries and Mealworms

Our first juvenile American Robin appeared in our yard yesterday. The windstorm we had on May 14 with several high gusts did blow down several nests in our area including the one featured in the April Cedar Mill news. Imagine how happy I was to see that at least one nest apparently was wedged tightly somewhere in a bush or tree so some young robins survived. The pair whose nest with freshly hatched young got blown down is now rebuilding so possibly the robin population will not be as decimated as feared.

During the time of rapid growth we can watch the various pairs of parents of the newly hatched chicks do the frenzied back and forth to the nest with beaks full of various insects/caterpillars/aphids/worms and other “high protein” foods needed for developing feathers and bones in the chicks. Our yard appears to have a great supply of worms.  This makes me more mindful of the chemical use— how can I have a reasonable looking yard without dumping tons of chemicals which effects the soil composition and also gets into the bodies of the birds who forage there. Since becoming a bird watcher I have greatly reduced my yard chemical usage finding that the aphids on the roses are appreciated by the Black Capped Chickadees as they go back and forth to the hatchlings with several aphids per trip in their beaks. I have reduced my use of chemical lawn fertilizers in favor of the organic ones, which don’t kill off soil microorganisms and worms. I tolerate more weeds or I hand pull rather than using weed killers which I know the bird’s track back to the nests on their feet.

Watching these creatures has given me a new appreciation for my impact on their lives.

As the temperature rises the sources of protein and fat I have been offering such as suet gets “messier”. It melts when the sun comes out and I have heard of birds getting their feathers coated with melted suet— not helpful for rapid flight I would imagine. I just discovered a “new” source of protein for my “new parent” birds to offer – dried mealworms!  One can order fresh mealworms but since they are alive they do require some attention to keep them alive and some find them “gross”. However dried mealworms are easy to use and a great source of protein. One can simply spread them on the ground or put in with other foods such as sunflower seeds or buy a specific dried mealworm feeder.  If the birds are not attracted to the dry mealworms some sites recommend rehydrating them and putting them out in a bowl or simply on the ground. I didn’t find that necessary but it’s an option. The morning dew seems to hydrate them just fine.

Many birds at this time of year find these mealworms to be a welcome high protein addition to the feeder options—so look for Grosbeaks, Robins, and other insect eaters. I don’t have Bluebirds at my feeders but mealworms are known to be a favorite treat for them.

Last week I accidentally left a colander full of Bing Cherries after dinner on the deck. In the morning I was surprised to see the American Robin pair feasting on “my” cherries. My cherry tree has not ripened yet but when it does it attracts scores of Cedar Waxwings, Robins, and even California Quails.  The Quail parents fly up into the tree and drop cherries to the chicks waiting below. Until then they have to make do with the accidental ones left out for them after dinner!

Enjoy attracting birds to your yard with a variety of food options as well as thoughtful plantings and use of yard chemicals. I found the mealworms at our local Pet Barn which also offers many other types of foods for wild birds… check it out.


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