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Do Birds Eat Caterpillars? (All You Need to Know)

The food chain connection between birds and caterpillars goes way back. Caterpillars have been preyed on by different kinds of birds for as long as we know.

In this article, we will elaborately discuss which type of birds eat caterpillars and what type of caterpillars do they eat. So without further ado, let’s carry on with it.

Do birds eat caterpillars?

Birds eat caterpillars. Caterpillars are preyed on by a number of birds, including the warblers and tanagers. How frequently birds prey on caterpillars mainly depends on the season. In addition, birds such as woodcocks and robins also eat caterpillars that crawl on the ground.

Birds eat caterpillars. In fact, it is one of the most common bird foods. But not all birds eat caterpillars. There are some birds who never prey on caterpillars while it is everyday food for other birds.

There are some birds who feast on caterpillars on a regular basis. For example, birds of the warblers species and tanagers eat caterpillars regularly. In addition, you will find that birds such as robins and woodcocks prey on birds that are found crawling in the ground.

Birds eat caterpillars because they are quite nutritious. These insects offer a rich food content for birds and meet most of their nutrition needs. In addition, birds enjoy eating caterpillars because they are one of the most commonly found insects available.

Many caterpillars are usually available on the grounds. This especially happens during the rainy seasons. Birds can prey on them easily, which makes them a good feast.

Do birds eat these caterpillars?

Birds eat caterpillars. But they do not all kinds of caterpillars. Let’s take a look at which caterpillars birds like to feast on.

Gypsy moth caterpillars:

Gypsy moth caterpillars are quite large and hairy which makes them a very inconvenient target for birds. So they do not usually like to feast on gypsy moth caterpillars.

However, there are some species of birds that absolutely love gypsy moth caterpillars, such as black-billed cuckoos, orioles, blue jays, and more.

Monarch butterfly caterpillars:

Yes, some birds eat monarch butterfly caterpillars. But not all birds can eat them because of their infamous defense system. They are hard to prey on and even harder to swallow. The common predators of monarchs include birds such as black-backed orioles and black-headed grosbeaks.

Brown tail moth caterpillars:

No, birds do not eat the brown tail moth larvae. Brown tail moth caterpillars typically have a lot of hair. This bothers the birds.

So birds do not normally like to indulge in brown tail moth caterpillars unless that’s the only food available to them.

Cabbage white caterpillars:

Birds are natural predators of caterpillars. And among caterpillars, the cabbage white species is a particularly easy target because of their color, body structure, and habitat.

These caterpillars are eaten by birds like skylarks, house sparrows, and goldfinches.

Mullein moth caterpillars:

Birds are among the most common predators of mullein moth caterpillars. Besides birds, these insects have served as food for many wildlife.

These caterpillars can be found in leaves and trees, but hardly ever on the ground. So birds have a harder time identifying these caterpillars and preying on them as they are often camouflaged in trees.

Forest tent caterpillars:

Birds eat forest tent caterpillars. These caterpillars go to the ground in order to pupate. This makes them a very easy target for birds as birds always keep an eye on the grounds, hunting for food.

Forest tent caterpillars are preyed on by various wildlife for their body structure, size, and where they live.

Sawfly caterpillars:

Swafly caterpillars are eaten by many animals, among which birds are one. Birds like to eat sawflies because of their size. These caterpillars are particularly small in size which makes them very easy to prey on.

In addition, they provide wonderful nutrition values which makes them a great source of food.

Hairy caterpillars:

Birds eat caterpillars on a regular basis. But birds do not generally like to eat hairy caterpillars because they are bothersome to bite and prey on. However, cuckoos eat hairy caterpillars.

Box caterpillars:

No, birds do not eat box caterpillars. These caterpillars are surrounded by toxins that smell, which repels birds and other wildlife. Not many animals eat box caterpillars.

What kind of birds eat caterpillars?

There are many birds that eat caterpillars. Among them, the American Robins, Carolina Wrens, and vireos are some of the birds that love to eat caterpillars the most.

Moreover, you will find that yellow warblers eat caterpillars in their larval stage. In fact, this makes up about half of the yellow warblers’ regular diet as they find the caterpillars to be very nutritious as well as delicious.

In addition, the blue tit birds eat caterpillars as often as they can find them. They also eat other insects like spiders and shrews. There are othe bird predators for caterpillars as well.

Owls and weasels eat caterpillars as soon as they can spot them. In addition, woodpeckers eat caterpillars as well.

In fact, they eat more caterpillars than most other birds as they spend most of their time roaming from one tree to another, which allows them frequent access to caterpillars as well.

Do these birds eat caterpillars?

There are tons of birds that eat caterpillars. Let’s take a look at whether these birds eat caterpillars.

Chickens:

Yes, chickens eat caterpillars. Chickens are opportunistic animals and they eat almost anything they can lay their eyes on. This makes chickens very popular as insect mitigating animals.

Chickens eat any caterpillar that can be spotted crawling on the ground. They are omnivores and love to indulge in caterpillars. Caterpillars provide wonderful nutritious values, so they make a great food source for chickens.

Parrots:

Yes, parrots eat caterpillars as well. Parrots make very common pets and they hardly ever have to prey for themselves. But if you present your pet parrot with a caterpillar, they will gladly indulge in caterpillars.

Finches:

Finches have a very diversified diet. This allows them to never starve and always be able to fend for their kind. Finches do eat caterpillars.

Chickadees:

Chickadees eat caterpillars. In fact, it is all that they eat sometimes. Especially during the winter and springtime, when they are making and raising kids as they do not eat any seeds during that time.

Sparrows:

Yes, sparrows eat caterpillars as well. During the summer and spring, adult sparrows eat insects very frequently. And caterpillars make about most of their diet during that time.

Doves:

Doves are mainly seed eaters. They do not prefer to eat insects unless they absolutely have to. So you will not find doves eating caterpillars unless the odds are absolutely against them.

Robins:

Robins eat caterpillars. In fact, it makes about most of their everyday diet. Robin birds love to eat caterpillars, among other small insects. They also eat earthworms, beetles, caterpillars, and more.

In addition, robins sometimes love to eat small animals as they provide great nutrition. 

Hummingbirds:

Hummingbirds generally like to indulge in small and soft insects. And caterpillars are one of them, so they love to eat caterpillars.

Woodpeckers:

Yes, woodpeckers love to eat caterpillars. Since woodpeckers spend most of their time on trees, they are insectivores. They eat caterpillars whenever they can spot one.

Cardinals:

Cardinals do not like to eat caterpillars since they are primarily dependent on seeds and a plant-based diet. But they are running short on food, they will indulge in caterpillars.

Baby birds:

Yes, baby birds eat caterpillars. They love to eat caterpillars as they are mostly small and soft insects, which makes them easy to swallow and digest for baby birds.

Will birds eat dead Caterpillars?

Yes, birds will eat dead caterpillars as well. In fact, they would prefer a dead caterpillar as they are very easy to hunt. This will save the birds a lot of work.

Birds are generally very opportunistic animals. They feed on anything that they have an advantage over.

Are there any caterpillars poisonous to birds?

Yes, there are a few caterpillars that are poisonous to birds. These include saddleback moth, gypsy moth, Automeris, buck moth, and more. These caterpillars contain toxins that may be harmful to birds.

Caterpillars are generally hunted by birds like the warbler species, tanagers, peacocks, woodpeckers, robins, and more. These birds have very sharp eyes and they can spot a tiny caterpillar from very far.

But they are also very clever. They can spot whether a caterpillar is poisonous from afar as well. They will not feed on the caterpillars that are poisonous to birds.

Final thoughts

Birds eat caterpillars. Birds are typically very opportunistic animals and caterpillars make easy prey. They are easy to hunt down and feed on. They are also very nutritious and make healthy food. So birds love to eat them. Birds eat almost all kinds of insects and worms unless they are poisonous.