I remember high-school biology lab when I and 11 other confined students were expected to dissect an earthworm.

A dead, preserved, wrinkled, gross-smelling worm.

This for a diploma?

Of course, when you cut into something as decrepit and skinny as a formaldehyde-soaked worm, there isn’t much to see.  And yet, the memory lingers… Thanks for that Mr. Palmero.

Although I still couldn’t find a worm’s stomach if my life depended on it, today I am better able to appreciate earthworms and what they do for the environment. For example, I use worm tea that my wonderful friend gets for me from her wonderful friend. I use it to water my plants and feel a little more confident in a good crop every time I see an earthworm in my garden.

Many types of birds appreciate a healthy, juicy earthworm too. Earthworms contain the much-needed protein and fat that birds can use year-round and especially during nesting season.

Below are just a few simple gardening and bird feeding tips you can use to help robins and other worm eaters more easily find this food source.

Do Your Watering Early in the Day

Because oxygen is depleted in wet soil, worms will move to the surface to breathe. (This is why you see so many worms on the sidewalk after a heavy rain.)

If you water your lawn and garden early in the day, before the sun has a chance to dry up the moisture, worms will be encouraged to move toward the surface. Robins and others can hear the worms and see the small bulges under the soil that indicate a worm is ready for picking (I know… amazing, right?)

Red-breasted robin fledgling with worm

Even the newest fledglings know a good thing when they see it

Don’t Be in a Rush to Rake Leaves

In addition to being an essential ingredient for great compost, fallen leaves are perfect hiding places for earthworms.

Fallen and decaying leaves are a Siren’s call to earthworms.  They eat the rotting leaves and break them down into a nutrient-rich fertilizer called  vermicompost, which is super good for your plants and veggies. Birds know that piles of leaves are the go-to eating spot for worms, and once they toss the leaves a bit it’s easy pickings.

Put Out Mealworms

Mealworms aren’t really worms. They’re the larvae of a beetle called the tenebrio molitor, or the mealworm beetle, and in addition to being a yum-yum for birds, they’re also edible by humans… just not this human.

Making mealworms available is an effective way to attract many types of birds, including bluebirds. Those little guys adore a good mealworm but be careful. Too many mealworms will absorb the vitamin D out of a bird’s body, making for brittle bones. Stick to a few dozen a day.

You can get mealworms at most bird food stores. Often you can get them freeze-dried or live. You can also order them online. An easy search will bring up lots of suppliers.


Photo credit

Eukalyptus from Pixabay