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Sometimes a feeder works great right out of the box. But sometimes you need to make adjustments. I use Erva’s Starling Proof Mealworm Feeder to offer dried mealworms to Eastern Bluebirds and Carolina Wrens. I like this bluebird feeder very much, but I think it is designed for live mealworms rather than dried. You might not think that would make a difference but it does. I needed to make a change to use Erva’s mealworm feeder with dried mealworms. (Don’t worry, it’s easy.)
Without alteration, this bluebird feeder keeps European Starlings about 90% out of dried mealworms. When used as-is, the bluebirds and wrens get the majority, which is hugely better than anything else I tried for offering dried mealworms previously. But, wanting to more completely block out starlings, I’ve tweaked the feeder . . . using a carryout container! This made all the difference.
Mealworms Around The Edges
Erva’s bluebird feeder is a solid feeder. Its cage design keeps starlings from accessing the little glass bowl in the middle where the mealworms are placed. If I was offering live mealworms, I feel fairly confident that this would indeed work, because starlings can’t reach mealworms confined to the bowl. The glass surface should keep live mealworms from climbing out.
The problem is that I am offering dried mealworms in Erva’s bluebird feeder and the bluebirds and wrens make a mess with them. They pull them out of the bowl and fling them around as they choose mealworms. After a few visits, the floor of the cage tends to be littered with dried mealworms and there is more on the floor than in the bowl. Starlings take advantage of this by hanging on the side, sticking their head in and grabbing the odds and ends of mealworms around the edges.
Closing Off Some of The Cage
You might wonder, as I did, if you could cut off access to the cage floor by covering the bottom row of the mesh cage with something. I tried this, using layers of my favorite exterior grade super strong Scotch Super 88 black vinyl electrical tape. Didn’t work. Starlings simply reach in through the next row up.
Creating a Saucer
My next attempt to fix this was to use a clear round take-out container cover to try and contain the scattered mealworms, attaching it between the glass bowl and the feeder floor using the same screw that secures the bowl’s holder. It was a bit like a saucer with a tea cup.
This did help keep more of the mealworms in toward the feeder’s center and out of reach. But because the lid was fairly shallow, quite a lot of them could still slip to the outer edges where starlings could get them.
Swapping Out the Bowl
My last attempt works better. This time, I used the deeper bottom of the takeout container and removed the glass bowl and its metal holder entirely. Instead, I carefully cut a very small hole in the center of the takeout container bottom. I kept the nut and screw that come with the feeder to hold the metal bowl holder in place, and used it to instead screw the takeout container to the floor of the feeder.
The temptation of course is to now put MORE mealworms into this larger container, but that would defeat the purpose. The idea here is to still put the same couple handfuls of dried mealworms into the wider deeper container so their level within the container is much lower and they are more likely to stay within the takeout container.
My Bluebird Feeder Tweak Worked!
Bluebirds and wrens seem to have no problem with my modification. The takeout container I used is 7 1/4” in diameter (or 6” inside the rim) and is 1 3/4” deep. It is one of the fairly common heavy black ones and not flimsy. It is solid enough that it can stand up to a bird sitting on the edge. (Occasionally they instead choose to sit inside the container.)
The birds zip in and eat mealworms as usual. The result though, is consistently fewer mealworms along the edges where starlings can grab them. There are almost no mealworms on the floor now so there is not much for a starling to eat. Between this and the weather getting warmer, the starling crowd seems to have moved on at last.
If you are looking for a bluebird feeder to use with dried mealworms, check out my review of Erva’s Bluebird Mealworm Feeder.
Find the Erva Starling Proof Mealworm Feeder on Amazon.
PS: I’ve started tossing a few peanuts in with the dried mealworms. These don’t bother the bluebirds and it gives smaller birds, like Tufted Titmouse and Carolina Wren, a chance at peanuts the larger birds usually don’t share.
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