Every bird has its own dietary preference. While many birds enjoy the treats in bird feeders, some of them consume a wide variety of foods in the wild. Eventually, those who usually feed on the foods in garden bird feeders often switch their minds to natural food sources.
So, what do birds eat in the wild? Birds, in general, eat insects, worms, grubs, nectar, and seeds in the wild. Some birds consume berries, nuts, fruits, pollen, and even grasses, while others feast on snakes, rodents, small animals, and other tiny birds.
There are also different bird species, such as garden birds, waterfowl, migratory birds, and more, and each of them eats various natural foods. In this article, I’m David Rosas, going to talk about several types of foods found in the wild.
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Types of Foods Found in the Wild
The most common types of natural foods that birds eat are flowers, trees, shrubs, and insects. Let’s see what these natural food sources include.
- Flowers: Seed-bearing flowers are excellent food sources for many birds, especially for hummingbirds and sunbirds. These birds consume a large amount of nectar to get energy for flying for long.
- Trees: Trees are one of the great food sources for many birds. A tree can produce seeds, buds, sap, fruits, nuts, and peanuts. And plenty of birds feed on these natural food items.
- Shrubs: Shrubs, also known as perennial woody plants, are similar to trees. They can produce a variety of delicious foods, such as seeds, berries, and flowers. Regardless of these food sources, many birds eat black oil sunflower seeds.
- Insects: Many birds eat plenty of insects, including mealworms, gnats, ants, grubs, aphids, and all flying insects.
Categories of Birds According to Food Habits
Birds that eat various foods in the wild fall into one of the following categories: insectivores, omnivores, granivores, frugivores, and nectarivores.
- Insectivores: Birds that fall into this category consume insects and other small invertebrates, including worms, spiders, beetles, and caterpillars.
- Omnivores: Omnivore birds can eat both animals and plants, such as insects, worms, seeds, nuts, and fruits. Most of the backyard birds are omnivores.
- Granivores: Granivore birds consume a variety of seeds from different plants, including safflower, sunflower, corn, millet, and thistle.
- Frugivores: Birds of the Frugivore category only eat fruits, like apples, cherries, berries, seeds, and nuts from trees.
- Nectarivores: These types of birds eat nectar from different plants, especially from flower plants.
Different Types of Birds and Their Food Habits
As you already know, there are tremendous varieties of birds in the wild, and their food habits are different from one another. In short, you won’t find a simple food list for birds. Some birds eat seeds or insects, while others consume almost anything.
1. Garden Birds
Garden birds are birds that typically come to your backyard in search of food and shelter. There are many garden birds out there, and their food habits are different from one another.
Let’s see some of the garden birds and their diets below.
- Blackbirds: These are mainly ground-feeding birds, always searching for insects, earthworms, and snails along roadsides and lawns. During autumn, they enjoy eating different types of berries.
- Finches: There are two types of finches, chaffinches, and goldfinches, that usually eat various seeds. Goldfinches usually consume small seeds from ragwort, thistles, and teasels. During summer, both types of finches become prey birds.
- Robins: In North America, Robins are one of the most common garden birds. They often eat earthworms, but they mainly feed on insects, like spiders and beetles. Sometimes, they consume seeds and berries found on trees and shrubs.
- Hummingbirds: Most hummingbirds drink nectar found on plenty of flowers. Apart from that, they eat small insects, larvae, and spiders. They also sip tree sap and pollen when drinking nectar from flowers.
- Blue Tits: Blue tits are insect-eaters. They consume insects from the undersides of leaves or inside seed heads. They closely examine each branch and leaf of a whole tree for around half an hour to catch their food.
2. Tree-Clinging Birds
As the name suggests, tree-clinging birds, such as woodpeckers, tawny owls, and northern flickers, cling to trees, eating bugs and grubs found in trees. Woods and trees typically have many food options for tree-clinging birds, mostly hidden insects in deadwood.
- Great Spotted Woodpeckers: During the summer, this woodpecker species uses their long tongue to find invertebrate prey, like beetle larvae, at deadwood. When winter comes, and insects are hardly found, these woodpeckers consume seeds and nuts.
- Acorn Woodpeckers: These woodpeckers are omnivorous, which means they collect their foods from both animals and plants. During winter, they consume fruits, seeds, eggs of other birds, and various types of nuts. In the summertime, they feed on insects, particularly ants.
- Treecreepers: Treecreepers are small songbirds, creeping trees to find insects and spiders. In winter months, they eat various seeds.
- Northern Flickers: Northern Flickers mainly consume ants and beetles found on the lawn grounds, firmly whacking at the soil like other woodpeckers. In wintertime, they eat seeds and fruits.
3. Wading Birds
Wading birds are birds that have long legs, habitually walking with effort through water or viscous substance. They typically have a long bill that allows them to find prey from a certain depth of estuary mud or water.
- Curlews: Curlews mainly eat ragworm, lugworm, crabs, and shellfish by extracting them from estuary mud with their long, downcurved bills. When they’re on fields, they consume earthworms as well as other invertebrates, such as beetle larvae.
- Avocets: Similar to curlews, avocets eat crustaceans, worms, and invertebrates, such as midge larvae, by moving their bills from side to side through shallow water.
- Lapwings: Compared to curlews and avocets, lapwings have smaller bills. However, they eat invertebrates, such as beetles and leatherjackets, by grabbing them from the surface of the water or the ground.
- Turnstones: Like lapwings, turnstones have smaller bills. In general, these birds eat insects, crabs, mussels, barnacles, and periwinkles.
Waterfowl refers to a category of birds, including geese and ducks, which can swim in waters as well as walk on the ground. Many people seem that all ducks have the same dietary preferences, but they eat different foods, depending on their species.
- Shelducks: Shelducks eat invertebrates, aquatic snails, mollusks, small shellfish, worms, and larvae.
- Shovelers: Shovelers have a bit larger bills than other types of ducks. They pick small insects and crustaceans by filtering water through their bills, and therefore, feed on these things.
- Mute Swans: Unlike shelducks and shovelers, mute swans eat aquatic plants, such as pondweeds, using their long neck to grab the meal.
- Mallards: A mallard typically eats insects, worms, berries, shellfish, and various plant matters. To consume these foods, mallards dip their heads under the water and grab what they want to eat.
5. Invasive Birds
There are some most familiar birds considered as invasive birds in North America. Many of them are also regarded as invasive birds in Europe and other parts of the world.
Let’s see some of them with their dietary preferences below.
- European Starlings: Most of the European starlings feed on grubs by sticking their beaks into the ground to make a hole. When winter months arrive, they cannot find those grubs, and therefore, they switch to seeds, berries, and grains.
- House Sparrows: House sparrows are mainly plant-eaters, like grain and seeds. During summer months, they find plenty of invertebrates out there. That’s why they change their dietary preference for catching and eating caterpillars and aphids.
- Sparrowhawks: Sparrowhawks are mainly hunters, preying many small bird species throughout North America. Male Sparrowhawks catch relatively small species, while female ones take larger birds, like woodpigeon and starling.
- Tawny Owls: These invasive birds hunt in farmland at night. They catch small birds, field voles, rodents, frogs, and invertebrates, like large beetles. They mainly have round faces that help them to pinpoint their targets.
- Rock Pigeons: Rock pigeons are one of the most common invasive birds in North America. They mainly consume oats, barley, corn, and cherry. When they don’t find enough vegetation, they become invasive, switching to different types of insects.
6. Migratory Birds
Some birds, such as swallows, swifts, warblers, don’t spend their winter in the UK. Before the winter months start, these birds mainly migrate from the UK to North America, especially in the United States and Canada.
- Swallows: Swallows usually eat all types of flying insects, including gnats, mosquitoes, and flying ants, as well as small invertebrates. Some of them consume seeds, berries, and dead insects from the ground.
- Swifts: Similar to swallows, swifts eat many flying insects, such as aphids, beetles, hoverflies, and more. They also consume airborne spiders of moderate to small sizes.
- House Martins: Like swallows and swifts, house martins consume many flying insects, including flies, beetles, aphids, and so on. They always fly their wings to collect prey at a higher altitude than swifts and swallows.
- Warblers: These birds come in several species, but reed and sedge warblers mostly eat insects and invertebrates, such as spiders, beetles, and small snails.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. What can you feed a wild bird?
Answer: You can feed a wild bird with a mixture of seeds, including nyjer and black sunflower seeds. You can also offer the birds peanuts, live foods, like insects, and kibbles of dogs or cats.
2. What should you not feed wild birds?
Answer: Many wild birds are carnivorous, and that’s why you shouldn’t feed them any raw meat, like meat scraps or ground meats. These foods allow dangerous bacteria to grow, and therefore, they can kill wild birds. Besides, you shouldn’t offer bears to these birds.
3. What kind of human food do birds eat?
Answer: Birds can eat various human foods, including apples, bananas, hard cheese, raisins, peanut butter, rice, cooked pasta, eggshells, and more. However, not all birds can consume and digest all the foods mentioned above.
In short, there are many categories of bird species, and each bird has its own dietary preference. Some birds eat fruits, berries, and seeds, while others consume insects, eggs, fish, and even other small birds. You can find many birds that can eat both plants and animals.
Hopefully, you already get the answer to the query of “What do birds eat in the wild?” If you think that I’ve missed something important that should be included in this article, you can let me know about the matter, leaving your valuable comments below in the comment section.