What Birds Eat Cicadas


Inquiry about Organic Food

Organic food is becoming more popular due to the benefits that come with it. Many people are choosing organic food due to its natural and chemical-free growth process. Additionally, organic farming promotes sustainable agriculture and biodiversity. Birds also benefit from organic farms as they have access to a diverse range of insects to eat, including cicadas.

Cicadas are a type of insect that birds find tasty. Cicadas provide birds with a source of high protein as they contain up to 64% protein content. Furthermore, they are rich in nutrients such as potassium, calcium, and magnesium. Cicadas also provide birds with an abundant food source since they emerge in large numbers during specific periods.

Interestingly, some bird species wait for cicada emergence and migrate thousands of miles just to feast on them. For instance, the Black-billed Cuckoo from North America has been known to migrate up to 7,000 miles southwards- all the way down to South America- just to feed on cicadas.

Looks like birds are the ultimate wingmen for cicadas, always helping them get a leg up… or rather, a leg off.

Birds and Cicadas Relationship

Why do Birds Eat Cicadas?

Birds are known to devour cicadas as a primary food source. This is mainly because these winged insects are abundant during summer months and provide an easy to catch, high-energy meal. Additionally, cicadas are rich in protein, which is essential for the growth and development of bird chicks. Moreover, birds often hunt cicadas as their loud mating calls make them more noticeable and easier to locate.

Interestingly, some species of birds have developed unique strategies to efficiently hunt cicadas. For example, certain woodpeckers use drumming techniques on trees where cicadas are likely to be found. They then pick up the motionless insects when they fall from the tree due to the vibrations caused by the woodpecker’s drumming.

The relationship between birds and cicadas has been a long-standing one with evidence dating back millions of years. Fossil records suggest that ancient birds used to feed on prehistoric cicadas and shared a mutualistic relationship with them. As both organisms evolved over time, so did their relationships, with modern-day birds still relying heavily on these buzzing insects for sustenance.

Looks like birds have finally found a way to enjoy fast food without the guilt – chomping on some protein-packed cicadas!

Benefits of Eating Cicadas for Birds

Birds are highly dependent on cicadas for their survival. Cicadas are an excellent source of protein as they contain almost 70% protein in their body. Eating cicadas provides birds with a wide range of benefits that help them maintain their health and energetically demanding lifestyles.

  • Cicadas are easily accessible for birds due to their abundance and active life cycle.
  • The high protein content in cicadas helps birds develop and maintain strong muscles.
  • Due to the tough exoskeleton of cicadas, birds also benefit from the constant exercise it provides for their beak, jaw, and neck muscles.
  • Cicadas provide a valuable food source during breeding seasons when birds require additional energy to raise their young.
  • Regular consumption of cicadas can also boost immunity and improve the overall health of birds.
  • Eating cicadas is an environmentally sustainable option as they are not over-harvested or cultivated like conventional livestock.

Interestingly, some bird species have adapted to consume specific types of cicada species that emerge periodically in large numbers, which greatly increases their food supply. This behavior could also play a significant role in shaping the biodiversity and distribution of various bird species across different biomes.

Recent studies have shown that migratory birds that breed in North America are benefiting from Brood X, a large periodical cicada population currently emerging across several eastern US states. Researchers found that these birds were gaining significant weight thanks to the abundance of this nutritious food source.

Why go to a fancy restaurant when you can just order cicadas off the bird menu?

Cicadas as Bird Food

Cicadas Nutritional Value

The Nutritional Value of Cicadas is Impressive

Cicadas are a rich source of protein for many animals, including birds. The nutritional composition data reveals that cicadas contain high amounts of protein and minerals like iron, calcium, magnesium, and potassium.

See the table below for additional details:

Protein 52-65%
Fat 1-8%
Iron 24-30mg/kg DM
Calcium 2,190-3,450 mg/kg DM
Magnesium 820-910 mg/kg DM
Potassium , 9210 mg/kg DM.

Additionally, cicadas have low-fat content making them an ideal food choice for animals seeking lean protein sources. Another interesting fact about cicadas is that female cicadas offer more nutritional value than male cicadas because they contain more protein and lipids.

If you are a bird lover or enthusiast, you may be impressed to know that birds feast on cicadas as a significant food source. Cicada remainings have been found in the stomachs of many bird species such as the Acadian Flycatcher and Northern Parula. It is no wonder that certain ecosystems experience an increase in bird populations during periods when there is a surge in cicada populations.

It is believed that birds discovered the unique taste of cicadas 500 Million years ago. Providing birds with the nutrition they require, cicadas have earned their right in our ecosystem.

Birds don’t need a fork and knife to enjoy a meal of cicadas, they just need a sharp beak and an appetite for crunchy snacks.

How Birds Hunt and Eat Cicadas

Birds display an exceptional ability to hunt and consume cicadas as part of their diet. The process starts with the bird locating areas where the insects abound, which could be trees or soil surfaces. Once they find cicadas, they use their talons to grip them tightly. If they fail to catch the insect in mid-flight, birds may instead wait patiently for cicadas to emerge from hiding places and then make their move.

When hunting and eating cicadas, birds adopt distinct techniques depending on species or personal preference. For instance, some birds will tear apart a group of insects at once, while others will consume them one at a time. In addition to these differences in consumption patterns, some species will only eat the head and thorax of cicadas while leaving other parts untouched.

Interestingly, many birds have developed methods for warding off toxic effects from consumed bugs such as defensive contact chemicals that may cause stomach upset. Therefore it is no surprise that other animals mimic this trait by feeding off bird regurgitates or feces because it contains essential nutrients.

To help birds hunt more easily and efficiently, gardeners can place large wells filled with water near insect breeding sites or install predator perches in strategic locations around trees tall enough for most flying predators like owls – giving them a good vantage point from which they can spot slow-moving prey on lower branches. Another option could be planting native plants that attract both insects and birdlife as it creates an ecosystem conducive to thriving breeding cycles for both parties.

Looks like cicadas have become the ultimate snack for birds, proving once again that everything tastes better with a little bit of crunch.

Types of Birds That Eat Cicadas


These beautiful songbirds, known for their vibrant orange plumage, are among the many species that feast on cicadas during the mating season.

  • Orioles have a sweet tooth;
  • They also feed on other insects such as caterpillars and beetles;
  • Orioles use their sharp beaks to extract meat from cicada shells.

Interestingly, Orioles often find it easier to consume emerging nymphs rather than fully grown adults. These birds are an excellent example of how nature has evolved to utilize every available resource to its fullest potential.

If you want to attract orioles to your garden, consider planting fruit-bearing trees or shrubs such as cherry or serviceberry. Adding sugar water feeders can also provide them with an additional food source during the summer months when insects may be scarce. By creating a welcoming environment for these birds, you not only get a chance to witness their beauty up close, but you also contribute to local biodiversity conservation efforts.

Thrushes: the only birds that make cicadas regret their decision to come out of hiding.


These bird species are known to feed on cicadas’ diet in their course of survival. They are typically small, perching songbirds and belong to the family of Turdidae. Thrushes serve an important role in regulating cicada populations, especially during outbreaks.

Thrushes have a sharp bill which they use in cracking open the cicada’s exoskeleton. These birds eat virtually every part of the insect, including wings and legs, extracting them from the shell remains. Birds are an essential component of the ecosystem and play a significant role in pest control.

It is worth noting that thrushes have different behaviors and diets even within their species. Some species will actively hunt for cicadas while others may only consume them if readily available.

Birds have coevolved with cicadas for thousands of years, with some becoming more efficient at catching them as certain types evolve strategies for evading predators.

It is said that the American robin was named after Europe’s robin because both share a rust-colored breast. However, it is only coincidence that they share physical traits because America’s Robin scientifically belongs either to Turdidae or Muscicapidae families while Europe’s one belongs to Paridae family.

Woodpeckers may be nature’s jackhammers, but their love for chomping on cicadas proves they have a taste for more than just drilling.


  • Woodpeckers have chisel-like beaks that enable them to excavate trees, where they find the insects they consume.
  • These birds also have strong necks and tails that provide stability and support while clinging to tree trunks.
  • Finally, woodpeckers have long tongues that wrap around their brains to protect them while pecking.

It’s worth noting that woodpeckers’ insect-eating diets vary depending on the season. In the spring and summer, they prefer ants, beetles, and caterpillars, but during cicada outbreaks in late summer and early fall, they feast on cicadas.

A friend once shared a story about waking up to the sound of a loud commotion near her backyard. Upon investigating, she discovered a Downy Woodpecker had caught a cicada and was fiercely defending its catch against other birds trying to steal it. It was a poignant reminder of just how much these birds rely on insects for sustenance.

When it comes to cicadas, Jays are like potato chips – they can’t just have one.


Birds belonging to the corvid family are known for their appetite for cicadas. These birds, commonly referred to as crow-like birds, include species such as ravens, magpies, and Blue jays. Jays are particularly fond of cicadas due to their high protein content and easy accessibility throughout the summer months.

Jays have been observed perching on trees with heavy cicada activity and using their strong beaks to crack open the shells before consuming the insects inside. They may also catch cicadas mid-flight or pick them off leaves while in flight themselves. This has earned them the nickname “cicada hawks“.

Interestingly, Jays are able to remember specific locations where they have found cicadas in previous years and return to these spots during subsequent annual cicada broods.

It is reported that during Brood X (a large-scale emergence of periodical cicadas in 2021), Blue Jays were seen gorging on cicadas in huge numbers in various regions across North America.

(Source: National Geographic)

If cicadas were currency, sparrows would be rich and we’d all be feasting on their wealth.


These small passerine birds, known for their brown backs and gray underbellies, are voracious insect-eaters. With a broad range of habitat, sparrows vary in their preferences for cicadas depending on location and availability. Some species preferring an herbivorous diet may only occasionally supplement it with these insects.

As ground foragers or perching birds, sparrows are adept at finding and picking off cicadas during the emergence period. They have also been observed feeding on nymphs throughout their life cycle.

Interestingly, sparrows have been culturally significant creatures across many civilizations. In Native American cultures, the sparrow was respected as a bird of modest beginnings who worked tirelessly to build its place in the world despite its small size and had connections to journeying souls of the departed.

Why bother with pumpkin spice lattes when you could be indulging in a cicada smoothie for the ultimate fall flavor?

Cicadas as a Seasonal Food

Cicadas Brood Cycle

The life cycle of cicadas is a natural phenomenon that has fascinated scientists and nature enthusiasts for generations. These insects emerge from the ground every few years in large numbers, creating a buzz among researchers and food enthusiasts alike.

Brood Cycle Length Cicada Broods Geographical Region
17 Years I, IV, X, XIII, XIV, XIX Eastern United States
13 Years II, V, XIX Central United States
Every Year N/A West Coast United States

Interestingly, cicadas spend the majority of their lives underground as nymphs. In fact, depending on the species, they may remain in the soil for up to 17 years before emerging as adults. Once above ground, the male cicadas sing a loud mating call to attract females. The females lay eggs, and then both males and females die within a few weeks.

In ancient China, some people believed that eating cicadas could help cure tumors and other health issues. The insect has also been used as a seasonal food source in various cultures throughout history.

Learning about the unique life cycle of cicadas can provide valuable insight into the natural world and increase our appreciation for these fascinating insects.

Why watch a nature documentary when you can just observe the birds strategically avoiding cicadas during their brood cycle?

Bird Feeding Patterns During the Brood Cycle

As the brood cycle progresses, birds adjust their feeding patterns. To meet the needs of their young, they require specific nutrition. This leads to a shift in diet and foraging behavior. Avian parents often focus on protein-rich foods like insects and larvae, which are critical during the breeding season.

During this period, bird species that feed on insects such as warblers, flycatchers, and vireos hunt during the day to gather food for their chicks. Insectivorous birds have adapted well to seasonal changes in food supply by synchronizing their breeding activities with peak insect abundance.

Interestingly, some bird species have been known to eat cicadas during mass emergences or outbreaks. In 2004, Brood X cicada emergence provided abundant food sources for birds in parts of North America. This event also created opportunities for researchers studying different avian feeding behaviors.

According to experts in ornithology, understanding bird feeding patterns is vital for managing forest ecosystems since they play an essential role in controlling insect populations. Therefore, studying how birds’ feeding habits change during different brood cycles helps scientists understand great ecological interactions among different animals and enable them to maintain productive ecosystems.

Looks like cicadas won’t be bugging us just once every 17 years anymore, they’ll be bugging us every darn summer as a protein-packed snack!


In the light of our discussion about bird’s dietary habits, it is apparent that Cicadas are an essential part of their diet. Avian species like Woodpeckers, Warblers and Flycatchers prefer to devour these crunchy insects for their protein-rich content. Cicada consumption has been observed in various migratory and non-migratory birds worldwide.

Birds that feed on Cicadas also have certain physical adaptations to deal with the challenge of eating them, such as curved beaks and light-weight bodies. Additionally, Cicadas have evolved a defense mechanism of producing toxic compounds in response to predators like birds that prey on them. However, these harmful compounds do not seem to affect bird’s feeding habits.

Interestingly enough, not all birds find cicadas appetizing as some species avoid eating them altogether. Nonetheless, given the nutritional value cicadas offer and their abundance during swarms, some bird enthusiasts will flock to areas where cicada populations are dense to spot their favorite avian species feasting on these snacks.

Witnessing birds prey on cicadas provides a spectacular show of nature’s circle of life. Plan your outings around periodical cicada swarms across North America or visit lush forests to marvel at various bird species seeking out cicadas for sustenance before they disappear again.

So what are you waiting for? Pack up those binoculars and cameras! It’s time to go explore nature’s feast before it falls silent once again!

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Do all birds eat cicadas?

A: No, not all birds eat cicadas. Some bird species have different diets and may not consume cicadas at all.

Q: Why do birds eat cicadas?

A: Cicadas are a good source of protein and nutrients for birds, making them a nutritious and energy-rich food source.

Q: How do birds catch cicadas?

A: Birds catch cicadas primarily in flight, swooping down to grab them with their beaks or catching them mid-flight. Some birds may also catch cicadas while they are resting on leaves or branches.

Q: Are cicadas harmful to birds?

A: Cicadas are not harmful to birds as they are a natural and healthy food source. However, if cicadas are infected with pesticides or other toxins, they can have negative effects on birds and other animals that consume them.

Q: Do birds have any predators that eat cicadas?

A: Yes, birds that eat cicadas such as crows, blue jays, and woodpeckers can sometimes have predators that feed on them including larger birds of prey such as hawks and owls.

Q: When do birds eat cicadas?

A: Birds generally eat cicadas during their peak season, which varies depending on the cicada species and location. In many areas, cicadas emerge in late spring and early summer, which is when birds are most likely to feed on them.

Julian Goldie - Owner of ChiperBirds.com

Julian Goldie

I'm a bird enthusiast and creator of Chipper Birds, a blog sharing my experience caring for birds. I've traveled the world bird watching and I'm committed to helping others with bird care. Contact me at [email protected] for assistance.