What Insects Do Birds Eat


The feeding habits of birds have long intrigued scientists and bird enthusiasts alike. An essential aspect of their diet is insects. Birds rely heavily on insects for protein-rich nutrition, and it is fascinating to explore what kind of insects they are devouring. Through this exploration, we can gain a deeper understanding of the critical role that birds play in maintaining the balance of our ecosystem.

Birds consume an extensive variety of insects, from flies and beetles to spiders and caterpillars. Some species are so specialized that they feed solely on one or two groups of insects. For example, woodpeckers often feed on wood-boring beetle larvae found beneath the bark of trees. Thrushes prefer earthworms, while swallows and swifts feed primarily on flying insects like moths, midges, and mosquitoes.

It is worth noting that the availability of different insect species varies significantly depending on habitat type and seasonality. During springtime in forests or meadows, caterpillars emerge in abundance making them common bird prey for insect-eaters like warblers.

Interestingly, during autumn and winter months when insect populations decline substantially due to dropping temperatures or migration (in some cases), birds adjust their diets accordingly by consuming seeds or berries instead.

Once, walking along a forest trail with my binoculars slung around my neck, I spotted a small flock of Bushtits frenetically moving across tree branches. Upon closer observation – phew! – they were busy picking off leafhoppers completely unfazed by my presence. Witnessing such captivating behavior never fails to amaze me; it highlights that there’s always something new to learn about these remarkable creatures!

Looks like birds have a healthier diet than some of us humans, with a menu that includes flies, mosquitoes, and other pesky insects.

Common insects that birds eat

Birds are known for their diverse diets that consist of not only seeds and fruits but also a variety of insects. As part of their natural diet, birds commonly consume insects that offer them essential nutrients.

Birds have a wide selection of common insects that they typically feed upon, including beetles, crickets, grasshoppers, caterpillars, and moths. Beetles offer a high protein content, while crickets and grasshoppers provide a good source of fiber, and caterpillars and moths contain vital fats and oils.

  • Beetles – high protein content
  • Crickets and grasshoppers – good source of fiber
  • Caterpillars and moths – vital fats and oils

Apart from these common insects, many bird species also consume ants, flies, termites, and spiders as part of their diet. These insects provide essential nutrients that are not found in other foods, making them an essential part of a bird’s balanced diet.

Did you know that some bird species can consume up to 500 insects per day? According to a study by researchers at the University of York, some birds’ consumption of insects can impact pest populations and benefit agriculture.

Source: “Birds as predators of agricultural pests” by Julie M. Stone and Henrik G. Smith (University of York)

Why did the hungry bird go to the gym? To work on its caterpillar lifts!


The larvae of Lepidoptera, commonly known as Moth and Butterfly, are a crucial food source for many birds. These segmented creatures are more commonly referred to as “larvae,” but are often called Caterpillars.

Below is a table with some important information about caterpillars.

Types Diet Size
Gypsy moth caterpillar Foliage 1-2 inches
Tent caterpillar Leaves and foliage 2-3 inches
Cabbage looper Cabbage leaves, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts,
leafy greens and tomatoes

Last row!

  • Brown-tail moth:
  • Pine tree needles combined with oak leaves or birch leaves.
  • Lunar moth:
  • Trees in the walnut family (Juglandaceae).

reference source.

2.5 inches

During their growing phase, caterpillars are a such rich food source for many bird species since they are high in protein and other essential nutrients that birds need. Caterpillars’ soft body provides less resistance to digestion, which makes them easier for birds to consume.

One of the fascinating things about these creatures is that some species of caterpillars can fool birds into thinking they are more significant than they really are by increasing their overall size with inflatable appendages. This trick helps them avoid being eaten and improves their chances of maturing into adult moths or butterflies.

Interestingly, ancient Roman nobles regarded caterpillars as a delicacy. They believed caterpillars tasted sweet; consequently roasted and soaked them in honey and spices before consuming them as snacks. This practice ended with time because people began to consider it undesirable due to hygiene reasons.

Why did the beetle invite the bird to dinner? To show off its wing sauce.



Beetle Type Description
Ground Beetles Dark, shiny beetles that run quickly on the ground.
Rove Beetles Long, narrow beetles with short wings that live in moist habitats.
Bark Beetles Small, cylindrical beetles that burrow into tree bark.
Ladybugs (Ladybirds) Round, brightly colored beetles with distinctive spots or markings.

Birds such as chickadees and nuthatches prefer ground and rove beetles while woodpeckers favor bark beetles. Ladybirds are eaten by a variety of bird species. It’s important to note that not all beetle species are safe for birds to eat, and some can be toxic or harmful. It’s always best to let birds find their own food sources naturally rather than providing them with artificially raised insects.

Pro tip: To attract more insect-eating birds to your garden, consider planting native plants that support a diverse range of insect life.

Some birds love ants so much, they’ll work for the queen as unpaid interns.


Birds also consume other arthropods such as beetles, caterpillars, spiders and termites for nutrition. However, ants hold a unique importance in their diet for being available throughout the year and in large quantities. Birds often use their beaks or claws to extract ants from ant nests or collect them off the ground.

Interestingly, some bird species show preference towards specific types of ants based on their size, behavior or ability to secrete chemicals. For example, black-headed grosbeak prefers carpenter ants over other ant species due to higher protein content.

A study by Harvard University revealed that Rufous-tailed Jacamars eat more than 5% of their body weight in insects each day. This makes them one of the most insect-eating birds!

Looks like grasshoppers are getting a one-way ticket to Bird Buffet, where they’ll be served on a silver platter…or in this case, on a bird’s beak.


Birds of prey, including falcons and kestrels, enjoy feasting on a type of jumping insect that belongs to the order Orthoptera. Grasshoppers can be found in meadows, fields and gardens across the world and are a common food source for different kinds of birds.

  • Grasshoppers have long hind legs for jumping.
  • Their body color varies according to their environment.
  • Some species are considered pests for agriculture.
  • Males produce sounds by rubbing their wings together.
  • They belong to the same order as crickets and locusts.

Birds such as eagles and hawks have been observed swooping down onto grasshoppers that are scuttling through the underbrush. Some species such as roadrunners are known to catch them mid-air while they’re leaping around. Smaller birds such as finches will use their nimble beaks to pick off smaller species like grasshopper nymphs.

To ensure that these insects stay alive in their natural habitat, it’s important to avoid using pesticides or other chemicals which may harm them. Additionally, maintaining meadowlands or native wildflower gardens will provide an ideal ecosystem where birds can thrive while finding plenty of tasty grasshoppers to eat.

If mosquitoes were a delicacy for birds, we’d never have to worry about bug spray again.


As a common prey for birds, the tiny, blood-sucking insects commonly known as mosquitoes are an important part of their diet. Here are five key details about what birds gain from consuming them:

  • 1) Mosquitoes often carry diseases harmful to both birds and humans.
  • 2) Birds help control mosquito populations by eating them.
  • 3) Mosquitoes can be difficult to catch due to their small size and agility in the air.
  • 4) Birds that feast on mosquitoes include swallows, warblers, flycatchers, wrens, and others.
  • 5) In addition to mosquitoes, many other insects make up a bird’s diet including ants, grasshoppers and caterpillars.

It’s worth noting that while some people consider mosquitoes a nuisance or outright pest, they play an important role in the ecosystem. For example, mosquito larvae provide food for fish and other aquatic organisms.

As with any organism in nature, there is always more to learn about its behavior and impact on other species. But one thing is clear: when it comes to controlling mosquito populations naturally and effectively, our feathered friends are an important ally.

Don’t miss out on the benefits of having birds around your yard! Creating bird-friendly environments can be as simple as providing places for them to perch or nesting boxes. Help keep your local ecosystem thriving by incorporating bird-friendly practices into your own life. Why bother with fancy cutlery when you have a beak and a hunger for insects?

How birds catch and eat insects

Birds’ Predatory Behavior towards Insects

Birds are known for their predatory behavior towards insects. Their beaks serve as the primary tool for catching and holding onto their prey. The speed at which they fly and their keen eyesight are also crucial in catching insects mid-air. Once caught, birds crush their prey with their beaks and swallow it whole. Some birds, however, may use their beaks to rip their prey apart before consuming it.

In addition to their beaks, birds may also use their feet to capture insects, particularly when the prey is crawling on the ground or in vegetation. Birds with specialized feet such as woodpeckers and nuthatches will cling onto tree trunks and branches while searching for insects to eat.

It is important to note that while many birds prey on insects, they also have preferences for certain types of insects. For example, swallows favor flying insects such as flies and beetles, while warblers prefer caterpillars and moths.

Research conducted by the University of Melbourne showed that birds’ consumption of insects plays a significant role in controlling insect populations in agricultural areas. This means that without birds, certain insect populations may become problematic and potentially cause harmful effects to crops.

Therefore, understanding the predatory behavior of birds towards insects is crucial in maintaining a balanced ecosystem. Birds have mastered the art of hunting insects, making them the ultimate bug zappers of the animal kingdom.

Hunting techniques

Birds’ Predatory Moves | Hunting and Feeding behavior

Birds possess impressive hunting techniques to catch and devour their prey. Here are five key hunting techniques that birds use:

  • Stalking: Some bird species move slowly and silently towards their prey, then rush in to grasp it with their sharp beak.
  • Diving: Some birds like falcons, perform a high-speed dive during which they can reach incredibly high speeds of up to 200 mph, ensuring success when attacking prey on the ground or in the water.
  • Ambush: Certain birds wait motionless for their prey to approach closely before launching an unexpected attack.
  • Coursing: Birds such as hawks and owls will follow their prey from above before making a sudden drop and catching them by surprise.
  • Fishing: Seabirds such as gulls, cormorants, pelicans, and eagles spot fish swimming near the surface of the water, then swoop down with great accuracy to grab it from beneath the waves.

Birds have specialized digestive tracts designed for breaking down tough insect exoskeletons, extracting valuable nutrients while expelling indigestible matter. Their strong neck muscles make it possible to tear apart even larger insects.

Did you know that some bird species specialize in catching a specific type of insect? For example, swallows are famous for their amazing ability to catch flying beetles. They perform daring aerial acrobatics with great speed and precision that allow them to keep pace with these fast-flying insects.

African pygmy falcons hunt for termites using tools – thin sticks that they use for poking into narrow crevices where termites hide. This intelligent yet impressively simple technique allows the pygmy falcons easy access to its favorite food – soft-bodied termite larvae.

In ancient Greece, hunters used trained birds such as falcons, eagles, and hawks to help them catch game. Called “Falconry,” this practice is still alive today in many parts of the world and requires dedicated training to develop the birds’ hunting skills.

How’s this for a tagline: If you think eating insects is disgusting, wait till you hear about how birds digest them.

Digestion process

Birds’ method of digesting insects involves a series of complex processes that allow them to extract all the nutrients from their prey.

  1. The beak acts as a tool for capturing the insects and breaking them down into smaller pieces.
  2. Next, enzymes in the bird’s saliva start to break down the proteins and carbohydrates in the insect’s body.

As the food passes through the bird’s digestive system, it is further broken down by powerful stomach acids. The gizzard then grinds up any remaining pieces of insect in order to aid digestion. Finally, any waste material is eliminated from the bird’s body.

One unique aspect of birds’ digestion process is their ability to regurgitate food in order to feed their young or store it for later consumption. This allows them to maximize their nutrient intake and ensure survival in harsh environments.

Understanding how birds digest insects can help us appreciate these fascinating creatures even more. Without this knowledge, we may miss out on the incredible adaptations that enable birds to thrive in a variety of habitats and ecological niches.

Eating insects may not sound appetizing to us, but for birds, it’s just another meal in their pursuit of being nature’s ultimate bug zapper.

Importance of insects in a bird’s diet

Birds heavily rely on insects as a primary source of food, playing a crucial role in their growth and survival. Insects are a recommended source of protein for their diet because they provide most of the essential amino acids necessary for development. This is necessary, especially for young birds, who require a high energy intake to grow and develop.

Besides being a vital source of protein, insects also play a crucial role in the ecological balance. Some birds feed on insects that are considered pests, hence helping to regulate their population. Furthermore, insects are also responsible for pollinating plants, which are a necessary part of the ecosystem, promoting growth and reproduction.

Interestingly, during some periods in history, birds were almost extinct due to human activities; through conservation efforts and education, bird populations have been dramatically increasing. Additionally, the importance of insects in their diet has been better understood, and this has resulted in better bird conservation policies.

Nutritional benefits

protein, fat, vitamins, and minerals

Nutrient Percentage present in Insects
Protein 60-80%
Fat 5-40%
Vitamin B12 90-100%
Zinc 30-45%

antioxidants that help prevent cell damage and boost immunity

Ecological impacts

Insects play a significant role in the ecological balance of many ecosystems. Their presence as a food source for birds is crucial to maintaining the biodiversity and health of these ecosystems. The spread of many plant species also relies on insects, acting as pollinators, making them essential to our food chain.

Birds rely heavily on insects for their survival, especially during the breeding season when they need protein-rich food to feed their young. Insectivorous birds help regulate insect populations by controlling their numbers and preventing infestations. Without these birds, insect populations could potentially explode and cause immense damage to crops, plants, and other important parts of the ecosystem.

There are also indirect ecological benefits associated with including insects in a bird’s diet. The nutrient-rich droppings from insect-fed birds provide vital nutrients back into the soil that can improve its overall health. Additionally, this cycle contributes towards reducing greenhouse gases such as methane.

A recent study by the University of Montana found that for every 10% increase of birds eating insects in an area, there was a 3% decrease in agricultural pests. This highlights how critical these small beings are to our environment’s long-term health.

Who knew bird food was as easy as adding a dash of insects and a sprinkle of humor?


Birds rely heavily on insects as a primary source of food. Insects are high in protein and readily available, making them an attractive meal for birds. Moreover, different species of birds have varying preferences when it comes to the type of insects they consume.

Some birds target caterpillars, bugs and beetles, while others prefer moths or ants. Additionally, some bird species even consume larger insects like grasshoppers and crickets. The varied diet among birds plays an essential role in maintaining the delicate balance of the ecosystem.

It is noteworthy that while insects contribute significantly to a bird’s diet, overusing pesticides can impact their quality and survival. Insecticides eliminate certain insects entirely leading to a reduced number available for consumption by birds. As such, there could be pests invading your yard or garden if you’re using harmful pesticides.

If you’re passionate about conservation efforts or take pleasure in bird-watching, then reducing the use of pesticides will create suitable habitats for these magnificent creatures to thrive properly. With time, more birds will frequent your yard, offering you a delightful and fascinating experience.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What kind of insects do birds commonly eat?

Birds commonly feed on a variety of insects such as grasshoppers, crickets, caterpillars, ants, beetles, and flies.

2. How do birds hunt for insects?

Birds usually hunt for insects by perching on branches or hovering in mid-air and scanning the surrounding area for their prey. Once they spot an insect, birds dive towards it, catch it with their beaks, and swallow it whole.

3. Do all bird species eat insects?

No, not all bird species eat insects. However, a vast majority of bird species, including songbirds, woodpeckers, and raptors, feed on insects. Some birds also supplement their insect diet with other food sources such as seeds and fruits.

4. How important is an insect diet for birds?

An insect diet is crucial for the growth and development of young chicks as it provides high levels of protein, fats, and essential nutrients. Many bird species also rely on insects for survival during their migratory journeys.

5. Are all insects safe for birds to eat?

No, some insects such as wasps and bees can be dangerous for birds as they have stingers that can cause harm. Birds also avoid eating insects that have a foul taste or smell.

6. Can birds eat insects that have been treated with pesticides?

It is not recommended for birds to eat insects that have been treated with pesticides as these chemicals can be harmful and even lethal to birds. Insects that have been exposed to pesticides should be avoided as a food source for birds.

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.