I use three different mealworm feeders–not all at the same time and not at the same time of year–it will vary. The photo below is a metal “jailhouse” style feeder with a glass cup in the center. This is my favorite feeder because it keeps out larger birds that can dominate getting the goodies (jays, crows, etc.). It does take some training for the bluebirds to find this, but when live mealworms are in this cup and placed not far from their nestbox (not too close!), they usually find this because they perch in the pine trees above it. Carolina Wrens consistently feed out of this. My other feeders are an adjustable Droll Yankees domed feeder that I can move around on a shepherd’s hook, and the other is just an open glass cup on a stake. I like the domed feeder to train bluebirds to use it and then I can lower the dome to keep larger birds out later. It is also one I can put out in the open–rain will stay out and keep the mealworms dry. In the winter, sometimes I mix bluebird suet nuggets with soaked currants and freeze-dried mealworms to create a mixed “banquet”. Live mealworms work the best if you are willing to pay for them and keep them in your refrigerator (not as complicated or squeamish as some might think it is) or just learn to manage raising your own. That’s another topic another time. I have no interest in raising my own at this point. If you want to learn about growing your own mealworms, do check out the page on the Sialis site about doing so (Class 101–Raising Mealworms!):
My next goal is to set up my camera on my existing tripod (needs some repairs and I need a bigger one to support another heavier camera and lens) and take photos of birds taking some good food at this jailhouse feeder! I have already staked out where to do that so the birds can’t see me.
Bottom line, to keep bluebirds near you all year, do the following:
1. Plant NATIVE ornamental (not invasive species) berry-producing trees and shrubs so the bluebirds have winter food sources
2. Put out a nestbox or two and monitor them so the birds can successfully use them season after season
3. Display and maintain a clean bird bath (water source) year-round
4. Offer mealworms to entice them and keep them close (good for taking photos of the adults and fledglings which they feed for another month)
Additional important note about feeding mealworms: I am a firm believer in letting the birds do most of the work in finding food, particularly for the nesting babies. It is important that the growing nestlings get a VARIETY of food. We don’t want the bluebird parents to be spoiled by having mealworms offered 24/7. I look at mealworms as supplemental feeding. A few in the morning and a few in the evening is about right in my opinion. I whistle a tune when I fill up the cup. That trains them fast you’re bringing them some treats. I also enjoy watching the Chipping Sparrows hang loose on the outskirts of the feeder watching for any mealworms that drop on the ground!
Suggestion on this feeder: It is rather lightweight. If you put freeze-dried mealworms in this, take it down in high winds as all the dried mealworms will fly out. This feeder will rock back and forth in winds. You also have the option to pole-mount this feeder which keeps it more stable. Since I have other stake-type feeders, I keep this as a hanging feeder. I like to move it around from tree to tree using a very large decorative S-style hook designed for tree branches. These are easily found at garden centers and hardware stores. If a raccoon knocks this down, more than likely, it cannot drag it off due to the size. Also the metal top keeps the glass cup of food dry and is somewhat difficult for a raccoon to pry it open. I hear crows quite a bit coming and going by our house, so I know they can't get inside this.