Really Wild Birdfood Co
Call us to place an order 01489 896785
Next working day delivery available! Find Out More >

Fledgling bird on the ground

If you see a baby bird on the ground - all alone and seemingly abandoned by its parents - your first instinct may be to offer the fledgling a helping hand.

However, in most cases, you should not intervene. Yes, it's hard not to feel sorry for a young bird who appears to be struggling, but your attempt to assist may end up interfering with a critical stage of the fledgling's development. Birds have to learn to stand on their own two feet and fly on their own two wings!


feeding birds mealworms

The breeding season (April to July) is a great time to feed mealworms, wax worms and other live foods to your garden birds if you don't already do so!

Of the many varieties of garden bird whose numbers are in decline in the UK, it is the insectivores who have been the worst hit. The lack of mature, native trees in our gardens and ever-decreasing areas of natural woodland means that wild birds cannot find the insects they need to feed their young, resulting in fewer eggs and fewer fledgelings. This makes live foods a more conscientious choice, particularly during periods of colder weather (when insects will hide away in warm places) and especially when you consider that the birds' activity rate during the breeding season can be 100 times greater than during the winter months.

Live mealworms and wax worms are easily digestible with a high moisture content - essential for fledgelings who cannot leave the nest to drink. Other sources of moisture for them include unripe seeds, earthworms and caterpillars, but there is growing evidence to show that the peak time for earthworms and caterpillars is possibly earlier than the peak fledgeling explosion, so live mealworms and wax worms are a great option to bridge that gap.

Buy Live Mealworms & Wax Worms for Birds >


Feeding birds wax worms and mealworms 

It has been proven that feeding live foods can have a significant positive effect on the number of chicks reared by their parents. Wax worms and mealworms are also rich in essential protein (50.4%), very safe to feed due to their vegetarian diet (no spread of nasty diseases), and much easier to store and use than you might think.

If the wax worms come supplied in a tub, it should already have a ventilated lid and some bran inside to keep them going, so you can just keep them cool until you're ready to use them (ideal storage temperature: 8 to 10 °C). Wax worms and mealworms can go in the fridge, but this can make them a bit dormant and less wriggly - and it's the wriggling that attracts the bird's keen eye. Temperatures below 5 °C will kill the mealworms and wax worms, while temperatures above 22 degrees will make them pupate very quickly.

They do not need light - in fact, dark is good - and if you notice their food has depleted, you can add a bit of carrot, apple, oats or potato peelings. Wax worms and mealworms can be kept this way for several months at the correct temperature.

Bulk bags of live worms are more economical but need to be unpacked on arrival. They can be stored in a large open plastic container such as a cat litter tray or similar, at a maximum depth of 1 inch. There is no need for a lid as long as the sides are deep and clean and the container is placed somewhere where it won't be knocked over!


Want to know more about how to feed live mealworms and wax worms to birds? Here is a very informative Q&A with our founder and resident vet, Lesley:

Q. Which birds eat live worms?

A. The insect and invertebrate eaters: robins, sparrows, tits, starlings, blackbirds, wrens and thrushes.

Q. What are mealworms?

A. They are the larvae of the flour beetle (Tenebrio Molitor), a native British insect that eats flour, meal, grain and other related crops. They are vegetarian, which is important because when fresh, they don't smell!

Q. Where do your live mealworms come from?

A. Our live mealworms are grown in the UK for us and are British bred! There are many companies importing mealworms from Europe; ours will be fresher as they won't have travelled far.

Q. If I order live worms, what can I expect to receive?

A. Live mealworms are delivered by Royal Mail. They will arrive in a cardboard box, and within the box will be either some plastic tubs or larger quantities within a white polypropylene bag with a cable-tied top. Please don't worry if the plastic tubs don't have air holes punched in them - the lids are made of breathable material so the mealworms will be fine.

Q. Do the mealworms smell?

A. No! There is no smell given off by mealworms or wax worms if they are kept in the correct conditions. There will be some bran or clean newspaper in with them when they arrive. For those that are in tubs, you don't need to do anything. If you have bought a larger sack of them, we would suggest transferring them into a shallow, smooth-sided tray or tub.

Q. How long will the worms last?

A. Being larvae, their longevity is dependent on the conditions and temperature they are stored at. The cooler they are, the longer they will last. If you find that there is a lot of black poo appearing, the chances are it is too warm for them or they are too deep in their container.

Q. If I order them today, when will I receive them?

A. All live foods are sent by Royal Mail. They, therefore, take 3-5 working days and will arrive separately from the rest of your Really Wild Bird Food order (which should arrive on the next working day). Orders received before 12.00 on Monday to Thursday will be dispatched on the same day. Orders received on a Friday to Sunday will be dispatched on the following Monday. We are ultra-careful around bank holidays (especially during the warm summer months) in case they get held up in a warm sorting office somewhere, speeding up their metamorphosis. Please order a few days earlier around a bank holiday.

Q. I would like to receive a regular weekly order - can you do this?

A. Of course! We have many customers who request scheduled live mealworm deliveries, either on a weekly, fortnightly or monthly basis. Please contact us with your request.

Q. What sort of feeder should I offer live mealworms in?

A. Wax worms and mealworms need to be contained in a smooth steep-sided container (otherwise you will find they wriggle up and out and will be gone in a flash!) - ideally something with a roof or overhang to protect them from the rain and sun, and drainage holes if there is no roof. Windows feeders lend themselves to mealworms, and it's fab to get a really close-up view of your robin and other smalls birds visiting. Caged feeders are also useful since they limit access to the bigger birds which can devour a whole pot in an instant!

Would you like to purchase some live or dried mealworms for your feathered friends? Here at Really Wild Bird Food, we offer a variety of mealworms and wax worms for you to choose from! Click the link below to shop:

Live wax worms and live/dried mealworms for birds

Up, up and away...or found on the ground?

I am often contacted by people who have found a young garden bird (or birds) sitting on the ground and looking as if they have been abandoned by their parents. This can understandably cause concern.

The first thing to say is that this is very common, and in over 95% of cases, there is no need to be worried and you should not intervene. For example, this gorgeous young robin is clearly doing very well for himself and feathering up.

Baby robin

Most youngsters you'll find are feathered fledglings, doing as nature intended and leaving the nest to check out the big wide world before taking to the sky.

Most of our garden birds will fledge once they are fully feathered (at about 2 weeks of age) but before they are actually able to fly. Instead, they tend to hop out and spend a day or two on the ground finishing off the development of their flight feathers, which would otherwise take up too much space and be too uncomfortable in the confines of an outgrown nest!

This young robin may look like he needs help, but actually he is just a bit behind the one pictured above. As you can see, he still needs to grow his flight feathers (and a tail!) but his eye is bright.

Young baby robin

This sparrow is also just young and needs his parents.

Baby sparrow

Of course, the exception to this rule are the swifts, swallows and house martins, who fledge on the wing and should not ever be found on the ground under normal healthy circumstances.

If garden birds are fully feathered and hopping about, it is extremely unlikely they are fending for themselves. Adult birds will be somewhere - either collecting food, hiding from you or keeping a watchful eye from a distance. Therefore, it usually best just to leave well alone.

In particular, if you find a young owl, do not touch it or move it. Very often parents will attack (and kill) youngsters that have been handled by humans.

So the take-home message is that moving an apparently healthy fledgling from its normal habitat WILL reduce its chances of long-term survival, so please resist the temptation to move it. Every year, the RSPCA receives tens of thousands of fledglings that have been picked up by caring members of the public and taken to them. Our garden bird populations are declining, so these tens of thousands are really needed to sustain the numbers!


When should I intervene?

If you feel that the bird's life is in peril - for instance, maybe it has strayed onto a busy road - then obviously the thing to do is lift it and move it to a safe place a short distance from where you found it. As long as you don't go too far away, the parents will recover their baby and (and with the exception of owls) should not then reject the baby just because it has been handled.

If you have cats in the garden, I would encourage you to keep them indoors for a couple of days until your fledglings have taken off.

If the bird has obviously been injured (e.g. a broken wing, damaged leg, laceration or cat maul) or if it appears sick, then it is unlikely to survive without some form of intervention. In this case, put gloves on, handle the bird with great care, place it in a dark cardboard box with ventilated lid, and seek professional advice.

If the bird is quite shocked, you should keep it in a warm place (like an airing cupboard). Alternatively, wrap a hot water bottle in a towel and place it below the box or along one side of it - NOT inside the box with the bird - so the bird can get away from the heat and you won't dry-roast it.

Sick firecrest

Although this is not a fledgling, you can tell by this firecrest's eye that it is unwell and needs veterinary treatment.

If the chick you find is bald or very poorly feathered (let's face it - a pretty ugly sight!) it may be possible to gently lift it and replace it in the nest. Obviously, you will need to identify which tree/bush and nest it fell from, and you need to be careful not to fall off the ladder whilst trying to do your heroic duty!

Please don't attempt to feed a sick baby bird with anything. If you cannot put the bird back in its nest, pop it into a small cardboard box with a ventilated roof. Keep it warm and quiet and take it to your nearest independent rescue centre or the RSPCA. The website has lots of good advice and an easy locator for your nearest wildlife rescue centre.

Of course, small birds like this need regular and constant feeding, so if you are not able to get to the centre straight away, call them and ask their advice about feeding and how best to look after the baby until they take over. It will be much less stressful for you, and you'll be more likely to have a successful outcome.

If you have a question for our resident vet Lesley, you can ask it here!

Regularly cleaning and disinfecting bird feeders are just as important as filling them - especially in efforts to prevent salmonellosis, a bacterial disease that kills many small birds.

Salmonellosis occurs when a food source is contaminated with fecal matter. Since 1970, when the bacterial disease was first diagnosed fatalities around bird feeders have become more common and have been witnessed in many bird species throughout the world.

Cleanliness is of prime importance when it comes to the bird feeders. It is necessary to keep the feeders clean in order to avoid fungal growth which can be hazardous to the health of many birds. Dirty feeders can cause a lot of diseases and so it is always better to maintain cleanliness and keep the feeders dry as much as possible.

This time of the year however, with the natural harvest available in plenty, the birds are less likely to feed from the feeders. Nevertheless it is always better to leave some stocked feeders out in the garden just in case. Since the number of birds coming to the feeders in autumn will be fewer, it makes sense to avoid filling the feeders completely.

This is also perhaps the best time to properly clean and sterilize the bird tables and tube feeders to prepare them for the winter. This quite essential cleaning job which can be tedious at times but can be made easy with Ark-Klens. This brush is made to make your cleaning job easy and is perfect for tubular feeders, and help in cleaning thoroughly without any scratches.

Check out the full range of bird table cleaning products on our website for more details!

Not so long ago, feeding the birds was simply a matter of hanging up a plastic string of nuts and scattering stale bread. Now, bird tables are groaning under a smorgasbord of Robin Crumble, Finch Mix, insect-flavoured suet blocks and bowls of live mealworms. Even the humble peanut has been overtaken by the sunflower seed in a lofty £180 million bird food industry. Richard and Lesley Smith, owners of the Really Wild Bird Food Company, are one of a handful of producers who sow and grow their own bird seed. Here, on their 400-acre farm, near Bishop's Waltham, in Hampshire, fields of sunflowers light up the downs alongside millet, linseed, oats, rape and wheat. The seed is harvested, cleaned, mixed and packed before being sold online or at the local farmers' market in Winchester.

As a farm diversification scheme, growing and selling bird food seems to have taken off. From its early beginnings with just a few home-grown ingredients and a shovel, The Really Wild Bird Food Company is now in its fourth year of trading, with sales increasing even in the recession. ''Garden birds soon become part of the family,'' says Smith. ''Once our customers start feeding their birds they tend to carry on. They also like the fact that the food is fresh, home grown and fully traceable. All our mixes have been formulated to attract as wide a variety of birds as possible. Our most popular 'original' mix has 13 ingredients.''

To judge by the contents of the sacks, it looks almost edible with plump raisins and crunchy cereals that would not look out of place on the breakfast table. ''High-quality foods like these provide birds with the best nutrients possible,'' adds Smith. ''But we also sell more specific blends aimed at certain bird groups, as well as treats like dried earthworms.'' Robins, apparently, go mad for live mealworms, whose high water content makes them particularly useful in frozen conditions. Ground-feeding birds, such as blackbirds, enjoy raisins, while peanuts will attract woodpeckers. A recent arrival on the menu is the nyjer seed from the ramtil plant, which is popular with finches and siskins, but the universal year-round favourite is the black sunflower seed. Introduced in the Nineties, this seed has transformed bird feeding by providing a high-energy food in an accessible form.

Given the diverse range of crops, it is not surprising that Street End Farm is home to a healthy range of bird life. However, it's not just the seeds that attract them. Wild bird cover, native hedgerows and overwintered stubble all provide much needed habitat for many of our threatened farmland birds. ''In recent years, we have seen significant increases in the number of skylarks, lapwings and English partridges as well as a lot of seed-eating finches,'' says Smith. ''At the last count we recorded as many as 56 different species of wild bird on the farm.''

Lesley Smith, who is also a vet, advises customers to feed different foods in different feeders. ''Some species are ground feeders like the robin, dunnock and blackbird; others such as the tits and woodpeckers prefer to feed from hanging feeders. Spiky bushes such as blackthorn and pyracantha will offer cover from predators and clean water is essential for bathing as well as drinking.''
Unwelcome visitors such as the grey squirrel may be distracted from bird food by nuts in a separate container, or by caged feeders for birds. Smith also advises bird watchers to think like a bird and maintain a 6ft gap around a feeding station so birds can watch for approaching cats.

The latest advice from the RSPB stresses the importance of year-round feeding. In cold weather, a robin needs to eat half its body weight every day. Later, in the breeding season, high-protein foods such as live mealworms are important to make up any shortfall in insect supply. And, even in summer, moulting adults and inexperienced fledglings will welcome an easy food source. ''Bread will fill a bird up, but it is of little nutritional value,'' says Dana Thomas of the RSPB. ''If money is tight, kitchen scraps such as uncooked porridge, cake crumbs or grated cheese are much better.''

The RSPB's annual Feed the Birds weekend acts as a reminder to fill feeders, clean bird tables and put out water for wild birds in the coming months. The swallows and house martins may have gone, but the winter visitors like the redwing and the fieldfare are arriving. Even common garden birds, such as blackbirds and starlings, may have travelled to British gardens from Poland or Russia.
In this year's RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch, the long tailed tit flew into the top 10 of garden birds for the first time, almost entirely as a result of seeds and peanuts provided on bird tables and feeders. It seems that catering for the birds pays dividends.

Feed the Birds Day takes place this weekend, with more than 100 special events across Britain. For further information