Date: 12/5/18 1:11 pm From: Elise W <ewolf97...> Subject: [obol] More on mealworms
Whether mealworms are good or bad depends on if the birds are feeding their young with them AND how much the parent female is eating. Basics: calcium comes from birds' bones (ditto for humans btw). They can replace some but not all through food, but not all they use in that summer.
When is feeding bad?
When parents - specially the female - eat so much as to produce more broods than the natural insect supply would allow. More broods can deplete a female bird's physical reserves and muscle mass enough to kill her by her not having the time or ability to replace these losses before migration and winter. b) More broods leads to more calcium loss to egg production. Lack of calcium can lead to a bird not molting. Lack of molt will lead to poor feather condition and feather loss. Which can then leave the bird susceptible to death in migration, and other health issues. (Bad feathers break).
If we prop up the parents for reproduction and there are not enough insects to sustain the fledglings after nest departure, those babies could suffer or die if their species is not the type to disperse upon fledging (few do this, swallows do, most stay in nest area and continue to develop. One reason rehabbers never release fledglings, and always place releases with flocks not simply release to the rehab center yard (that's considered very poor protocol).
Mealworm feeding is bad If the birds are making your free meals the main source of food. Deficiencies can occur when a bird lives on only one of our grown insects. Mealworms are less nutritious than wild insects. They are also harder to digest due to the chiton, which means they can basically 'clog' up a bird (ie: take up space in the gizzard that prevents other foods to pass).
When is it ok or good? Very bad winters, and migration periods - sparingly
So *what can we do to support our birds as the insect population declines? **Answer: turn our yards and lands into insect production units. *Native plants, overturned logs, shrub piles, compost piles, water, and no sprays. Fantastic habitat is the very best way to help our birds (and addressing window strikes, the leading loss of songbirds).
Elise Wolf Native Bird Care Sisters, OR 541-728-8208