Birds are members of the animal kingdom that feed on a variety of food sources, including insects, seeds, nuts, fruit, and even carrion. Some birds change their primary diet seasonally, while others eat the same thing year-round.
Birds have adapted their bodies to make it easier to find food and avoid predators. For example, birds that eat insects have special feathers called rictal bristles that help them detect flying bugs.
Besides seeds and fruits, insects are an essential source of food for birds. Depending on the bird, insects can make up a large portion of its diet or just be an occasional snack.
Insects are eaten by many types of birds including granivorous, seed-eating and water or wading birds. These birds will either dive to catch a flying insect or use their long legs to scrape the ground for worms and other creatures.
Insect-eating birds are tiny pest control experts and can be invaluable for homeowners to have in their yards to help with garden bug problems. Insect-eating birds are also a fun addition to backyard bird watching.
Many birds prefer a specific type of seed, so it is important to offer them what they like. Birds will also eat different seeds at different times, depending on their seasonal needs.
Grass-fed millet is a popular seed for small songbirds, especially finches and juncos. It is high in protein, fat and fiber and can be served in hopper or tube feeders.
Fruits are one of the most important foods in the diet of many backyard birds. These include oranges, grapes, and berries like blueberries, raspberries, currants, blackberries, mulberries, beautyberries, serviceberries, sumac, holly, and juniper.
Besides orioles, other birds that regularly eat fruit include woodpeckers, American robins, waxwings, warblers, and mockingbirds.
If you wash or core a fruit and find it has bruised, split, or crusty scabs, save it for the birds. Otherwise, throw it away. Also, keep in mind that a bird’s digestive system will not handle fruit as well as it does other foods, so it is best to offer small amounts of fruit.
Wild birds enjoy feeding on nuts for good reason, peanuts in particular are a fantastic source of fat and protein which is essential during the winter months when they need to keep warm.
Nuts are available year round and can be offered to birds in a variety of ways; whole, shelled, crushed or broken up. They are an excellent source of energy for birds and also help to replace lost body fat.
Almonds, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, pistachios and walnuts are all healthy, but do remember to break them out of their shells. Avoid feeding any that have flavourings or special coatings - these are not good for birds and the salt in them can be deadly to them!
Fish are an important part of most bird’s diets. They provide essential nutrients for birds of all ages and can even help them fend off disease.
Some birds eat fish whole, while others prefer to break them up into small pieces for easier digestion. This way, they can get the most nutrition out of their meal.
Some piscivorous (fish-eating) birds, such as ospreys, pelicans, and penguins, have specialized bills to help them capture their prey. Others, such as wading birds, stalk their prey before spearing it with their long beaks and strong necks.
Carrion, the dead and decaying flesh of animals, is a common food source for many birds. Vultures, crows and ravens are all known to enjoy carrion, as are other flying creatures such as bald eagles and kites.
Birds that eat carrion are able to survive through their stomach acids, which help them digest the meat. They can also bury or dig into a carcass, which minimizes bacteria and insect infestation.
Carrion is a rich source of protein, vitamins and minerals. It’s also a valuable resource for scavengers, who take advantage of the nutrients in dead animal carcasses.
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