When parent birds bring their young to our feeders, how can we help but enjoy the sight? The birds most likely to do this are orioles and woodpeckers, visiting jelly or suet feeders. These foods are fine “fillers,” but like fast food, are higher in fats and carbs than a nourishing diet should be. It’s not that adult birds should never ever bring their young to feeders: the foods we offer do provide some good nutrients, and in combination with a mostly natural diet are fine for young birds. The secret is they should only visit our feeders in moderation. If you spot what appear to be the same families visiting your feeder more than once or twice a day, it might be best to close down the feeding station for a few days.
Because most growing songbirds require a high-protein diet of insects, mealworms make a more appropriate food item for baby birds coming to our feeders. But even these should only be fed in moderation. Robins famous for feeding their young earthworms also bring them a wide variety of insects, and each insect has its own dietary preferences. A wide variety of insect species provide a much more balanced and nourishing diet than just a single species. Also, many mealworms are shipped in newspaper, and if the grubs munch on the paper, toxins in the newsprint may survive in their own bodies. It’s important to make sure any mealworms you offer are taken out of the newspaper packaging as quickly as possible and fed nutritious foods themselves to make sure they’ll provide good nourishment for baby birds. Putting mealworms in a medium of oatmeal or wheat bran is good; adding a dry feed for poultry chicks or baby parrots is better. To give your mealworms moisture, provide fresh peelings from apples, potatoes, and/or carrots. Remember, the healthier your mealworms are, the better food they’ll provide for baby birds.