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Feeding Insects to Pet Birds: Zoo Med’s Anole Food


Zoo Med Anole FoodInsects are readily taken by most captive softbills (finches, canaries and other “non-parrot” species), and are often essential in bringing birds into breeding condition and for the rearing of chicks.  Those of us who keep birds such as smaller finches, Peking robins, shama thrushes and leafbirds are often hard put to find suitably-sized insects.

Small crickets can be purchased at many pet stores, and a few tiny individuals are usually to be found in containers of wax worms and butter worms. A breeding colony of earthworms and mealworms is another option, but such may not be practical for the casual or “accidental” breeder.

In other articles, I have urged softbill keepers to investigate the use of Canned Insects, the Zoo Med Bug Napper and other products originally designed for reptile enthusiasts (please see below).  I would like to now add Zoo Med Anole Food to my list of suggestions.  The dried, laboratory-raised flies that this product contains are ideally sized for even the tiniest of finches and their chicks.  Your birds’ acceptance of this new food might be hastened by misting the flies with a bit of water, or by mixing a few small live mealworms among them.

You can read another of my articles on this topic by clicking on the following link:

Feeding Insects to Pet Birds – useful products designed for reptiles


  1. avatar

    Finches and canaries are predominately granivorous and not considered to be softbills. Shamas and Pekin Robins are softbills, but not finches.

    And technically, canaries are finches, the true finches. In aviculture, waxbills are called as finches, though true finches are of Fringillidae exclusively.

    Ironically, Hornbills are softbills.

  2. avatar

    Hello, Frank Indiviglio here. Thanks for your interest in our blog.

    You raise an interesting point, thank you. Those of us who work with birds and other animals in both professional and popular realms must move between often conflicting terminologies for the same species. When functioning as ornithologists, we do not use the terms “softbill”, “bird of prey”, “hookbill” etc., as these groupings were derived more with reference to appearance, lifestyle or diet as opposed to taxonomic relationships. However, such terms are quite useful, and widely accepted, among private aviculturists.

    Finches, as you point out, are often distinguished from “softbills”, although this does not always hold true as regards certain species or in certain sectors of the industry, or among English speaking countries other than the USA…I therefore used the term in its most general sense. Species kept infrequently here have diets that vary greatly from the norm for finches or “softbills”, clouding matters further. And of course birds from completely different orders as well as families – i.e. hornbills (Coraciiformes) and Pekin robins (Passeriformes) wide up in the same trade-based group, “softbills”.

    Common names and pet trade status confuse matters further. For example, two pet trade staples, the zebra finch and the Bengalese or society finch, considered by most to be examples of “classic finches”, are actually of a different family (Estrildidae, the waxbills), but the same order and sub-order (Oscines) than are many of the “true finches” (Fringillidae). The family Fringillidae is further divided into 3 sub-families, i.e. Carduelinae, etc., although such is not accepted by all taxonomists (incidentally, I’ve found the American Ornithologist’s Union to be a good source of information as to current taxonomic issues).

    Unfortunately, the same issues crop up when dealing with professional vs. popular designations of other taxa as well, i.e. turtle-tortoise-terrapin, hoofstock-carnivore-insectivore, newt-salamander, eel-minnow, and so on.

    Thanks for the opportunity to address some of the complexities surrounding these terms.

    On a personal note, a scar across my right forearm, courtesy of a concave-casqued hornbill, took 23 years to fade and convinced me that there is nothing at all “soft” about its bill!

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  3. avatar

    Hello, I am interested in learning how to cultivate flying ants, as well as other insects suitable for feeding to an indoor populations of swifts and swiftlets.

    I am currently renovating an aviary in Bali, by attaching to one side a large cage capable of supporting a captve population of walet, raised from eggs with an incubator, and fed by hand until they are old enought to fly.

    Can you advise me, or suggest any reading material how to grow a population of flying ants, and similar insects.

    Your reply will be most appreciated,
    Robert A Nicksic
    Bali, Indonesia

  4. avatar

    Hello Robert,

    Frank Indiviglio here. Thanks for your interest in our blog.

    That’s quite an interesting project…you’re venturing into new ground with it. Unfortunately, ant and termite colonies produce winged insects only during mating flights…these occur sporadically (varies with species and climate), but keeping a captive colony to supply such would not be feasible. Colonies are available from US suppliers (for zoo exhibits), but they rarely if ever produce mating flights.

    My main experience with birds that feed on the wing, as do swifts and swiftlets, has been with bee-eaters. For these I was able to trap bees in large quantities, but swifts will not take bees as far as I know…however, the bee-eaters did eventually learn to accept non-flying insects from a bowl. I was able to train insectivorous bats to do the same. I believe swifts would prove more difficult to acclimate to non-flying food than either of the foregoing, as they are so highly specialized, but it may be worth I try…you could then use easily-cultured insects such as roaches, mealworms, silkworm moths and crickets.

    Silkworm, tobacco hornworm and house flies can be cultured, and are available commercially, but it would likely be difficult to stagger the emergence of the adult moths so as to provide a steady food source. Flies would be easier, but they tend not to be active by night, when your birds would likely feed.

    Insect traps might be your best option. If you need large quantities of insects, I suggest a method use to sample nocturnal insects: suspend a sheet between 2 poles or trees, and shine a powerful light upon it (I can provide sources for such lights if need be) – even in temperate zones, this yields huge numbers of moths; in the tropics the catch can be truly astounding. If the birds do not accept non-flying insects, this may be the most effective way of collecting large numbers of moths.

    I’d be very interested to learn more about your work…please be in touch when you have the opportunity.

    Good luck and best regards, Frank Indiviglio

  5. avatar

    I, too, have been very happy with the results from using ZooMed’s anole food as part of the diet for some of my small finches. Bronze-winged mannikins, for example, time their breeding in the wild to the appearance of swarming termites. Since it isn’t especially prudent to have swarming termites in my home, I tried ZooMed’s anole food as part of a highly varied diet. They love it and are breeding quite successfully. With all birds, we should try to find out what their wild diet is, and then try to replicate it as well as we can. Sometimes that requires some creative thinking.

  6. avatar

    Hello Tom, Frank Indiviglio here.

    Thanks very much for addressing this point and relaying your observations; very important, but often ignored especially by breeders here in the US. Sometimes ZI feel I am writing to myself!

    As you say, many birds time their breeding to the arrival of certain food items, and the appearance of that food can, in some cases, act as a breeding stimulus. Also finches take far more insects throughout the year than most folks realize. During my time at the Bronx Zoo, I always operated insect traps in the warm weather, and had good luck with a variety of species.

    Canned insects can come in handy as well. You might also enjoy this article on trapping termites (workers trapped via the method described will not breed if they escape). Internet-based dealers also supply silkworms of several sizes (marketed for reptiles, usually), butter worms, flightless houseflies, mantis egg cases and others, all of which are appreciated.

    Please let me know if you need any further information. Good luck, enjoy and please keep me posted.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

About Frank Indiviglio

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I believe that I was born with an intense interest in animals, as neither I nor any of my family can recall a time when I was not fascinated by creatures large and small. One might imagine this to be an unfortunate set of circumstances for a person born and raised in the Bronx, but, in actuality, quite the opposite was true. Most importantly, my family encouraged both my interest and the extensive menagerie that sprung from it. My mother and grandmother somehow found ways to cope with the skunks, flying squirrels, octopus, caimans and countless other odd creatures that routinely arrived un-announced at our front door. Assisting in hand-feeding hatchling praying mantises and in eradicating hoards of mosquitoes (I once thought I had discovered “fresh-water brine shrimp” and stocked my tanks with thousands of mosquito larvae!) became second nature to them. My mother went on to become a serious naturalist, and has helped thousands learn about wildlife in her 16 years as a volunteer at the Bronx Zoo. My grandfather actively conspired in my zoo-buildings efforts, regularly appearing with chipmunks, boa constrictors, turtles rescued from the Fulton Fish Market and, especially, unusual marine creatures. It was his passion for seahorses that led me to write a book about them years later. Thank you very much, for a complete biography of my experience click here.
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