Do Birds Eat Ants? All You Need To Know

starlings eating ants

Do Birds Eat Ants? 

Have you ever seen an ant-eating bird? Perhaps you’ve seen one burrowing in the dirt and wondered what they ate. This page will discuss which birds eat ants, how they capture them, and what kinds of ants they consume.

Many bird species consume ants on a daily basis as part of their diet. Woodpeckers, pigeons, pheasants, sparrows, starlings, hummingbirds, crows, wild turkeys, antbirds, wrens, and grouse are among the birds that enjoy ants.

Little owls, robins, blackbirds, and cardinals are among the birds that eat ants less frequently.

sparrow eating ants

Why Do Birds Eat Ants?

When you consider how small ants are, they have a lot of protein in them. These high protein levels are necessary for a bird’s muscles to remain robust and able to fly.

If birds do not obtain enough protein in their meals, they may lose their ability to fly and perform daily duties.

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Ants are high in protein, zinc, iron, and potassium, among other nutrients. These three are equally vital to a bird’s health and will help with things like blood circulation and maintaining a steady heartbeat.

Bird Eats ant

What Types Of Birds Eat Ants?

Most birds eat ants on a regular basis, with certain ants being a mainstay of their diets and others being more opportunistic.

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Eating ants makes a lot more sense for smaller birds, but larger birds only eat them on rare occasions since capturing them requires a lot of energy, and larger, less nimble birds will need a lot more ants to meet their nutritional needs.

Woodpecker eating ants

i. Woodpeckers Love Ants

In general, woodpeckers consume more ants than any other bird species. They’re a hit! Ants can make up more than half of a woodpecker’s diet in some cases.

In gardens and backyards, Pileated Woodpeckers, European Green Woodpeckers, Northern Flickers, and Downy Woodpeckers are frequently seen searching for ants, larvae, and eggs.

To find them, they will forage on the ground, dig their beaks into the soil, and eat the ants with their sticky tongues. The ground-feeding green woodpecker and northern flicker are more likely to use this approach.

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Other woodpeckers, such as the Pileated Woodpecker, may forage for ants on cedar trees. They create large, rectangular cuts with their strong beaks in the hopes of striking gold for some black carpenter ants.

Hundreds of ants will then be lapped up and swallowed completely. When the ants are scarce in the winter, woodpeckers will consume various insects, fruit, and seeds.

Northern Flickers have been observed to eat over 5,000 ants in a single session!

ii. Starlings Eat Ants

Starlings are omnivorous, meaning they’ll eat just about everything, including ants. They are most commonly observed in huge groups scouring for insects, particularly ants, in gardens.

iii. Crows And Ravens Eat Ants

Crows and Ravens aren’t as regular ant eaters as some of the other birds, but when food is limited, they can be seen scouring lawns for insects and devouring ants that they find.

Bird catch ants in backyard

iv. Owls Eat Ants

Only smaller owls, such as the Little Owl and the Elf Owl, consume ants, and this is also rather uncommon. This is because feeding owls would require a large number of ants, and they aren’t experts at hunting them, thus the work vs return makes sense for them to eat more huge insects and animals.

v. Pigeons Eat Ants

Wood Pigeons and doves are two of the most frequent pigeon species that eat ants. One of the reasons for this is that their environments have a far more abundant supply of ants in general.

Northern Flickers, Downy Woodpeckers, Pileated Woodpeckers, Starlings, Cedar Waxwings, American Robins, Song Sparrows, Northern Cardinals, American Crows, Common Ravens, Gray Catbirds, and Wild Turkeys are among the birds that consume ants in the United States.

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Green Woodpeckers, Robins, Blackbirds, Pheasants, Starlings, Wrens, Swallows, Sparrows, Common Ravens, Blue Tits, and Great Tits are among the UK birds that eat ants.

What Types Of Ants Do Birds Eat?

Black garden ants, carpenter ants, red ants, and flying ants are the most frequent ants eaten by birds. Certain bird species, such as the Purple Martin, eat fire ants.

The bird’s location and habitat have a big influence on the ant species they eat, because it’s frequently based on what’s going on in the gardens where they’re hunting and foraging.

Birds eating ants 1

i. Black Carpenter Ants

Birds eat black Carpenter Ants, the most common type of ant. These are a favourite of woodpeckers, starlings, and sparrows alike.

ii. Flying Ants

Flying ants are eaten by a variety of bird species. Swallows hunt and collect flying ants in the air on a regular basis. Their acrobatic agility aids them in catching their prey effectively when on the fly.

Other birds will consume the flying ants if they are accessible, which is usually while they are on the ground.

iii. Fire Ants

Purple Martins have been observed eating fire ants on a regular basis, mostly mating queen and male imported fire ants.

These birds are predominantly found in the southern United States, where they are estimated to consume billions of fire ants each year, therefore limiting the expansion of this deadly species.

Other birds consume fire ants on occasion, but they must be cautious since fire ants may be fatal to birds, particularly their nests and young.

How Do Birds Catch Ants?

Most birds will catch ants on the ground, which they do mostly on lawns. Most other birds graze on the ground and pound their beaks into the dirt to dig and claim their food, but woodpeckers use their long, sticky tongues to collect ants from the ground.

This method of digging the beak into the soil is employed to catch not just ants, but also other creatures such as spiders and worms that live beneath the lawn.

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The main disadvantage of birds searching for ants on the ground is that it exposes them to predators like foxes, snakes, and cats.

This is why birds prefer to dine on feeders, trees, and plants rather than on the ground. Ants on branches, trees, and plants are also hunted by birds.

Birds eating ants 1

Are Ants Harmful To Birds?

The majority of the time, ants do not pose a hazard or cause harm to birds. Southern Fire Ants are an exception to this rule, since they have been known to assault and kill bird nestlings.

If you have nesting birds and fire ants in your yard, manage and eliminate the fire ant population to protect the safety of the birds and their young.

Do Baby Birds Eat Ants?

In general, parents will not feed ants to their young birds. This is due to the fact that they are tough-bodied insects that might be difficult to eat at such a young age.

Caterpillars, spiders, flies, grubs, and earthworms are the most common invertebrates offered to them.

How To Attract Ant-eating Birds?

Keep your grass trimmed to a sufficient length to attract woodpeckers and other birds that eat ants off the ground. When the grass is short, this makes it much easier for these birds to graze and seek for ants.

Adding bird feeders to your garden will also boost the number of birds that visit your yard. To offer good hygiene to the visiting birds, keep them fully supplied and tidy.

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If you have a pet cat, try getting a bell for it to help notify any passing birds. Birds are less likely to visit your garden in the first place, let alone hunt for ants off the ground, if they are afraid of cats or other predators.

Basically, the more birds that come to your garden, the more ants they will eat.

Do Ants Eat Dead Birds?

Carpenter ants and fire ants have been observed scavenging and eating dead birds. This isn’t only restricted to birds; most carrion (dead animals), including mice, will attract them.

What Ant Killer Is Safe For Birds?

Avoid using ant killers that include diazinon, bendiocarb, or chlorpyrifos since they are all hazardous to birds. Instead, ant killers using eugenol or diatomaceous earth are recommended. These are both safe to use around birds.

Many insecticides and herbicides that are routinely used can be hazardous to birds. This can come from both treated plants and poisoned ants.

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Use growth regulators to control your ant infestation if at all feasible. These can be quite successful in eradicating infestations while being entirely safe for birds and other animals.

Do Birds Eat Ants In Winter?

During winter, food sources can be more limited and its hard to get ants easily and as such a bird’s diet will vary greatly according to what is currently available around it. During summer, birds find a lots of food options to eat including ants, insects, berries, and seeds.

Do Birds Like Ants?

Yes! Birds are carnivores, which means they feed on meat including ants and insects. They’re drawn to insects and other small invertebrates because insects are abundant and nutritious.

Birds will also regularly snack on seeds, nuts, and berries while they’re out looking for bugs. In fact, an adult bird of prey can easily consume half its body weight every day just to stay healthy—and a juvenile needs even more!

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Birds that have adapted to living in urban environments are often scavengers, which means they often feast on things like insects, ants, rotting fruit, and discarded leftovers. But depending on what kind of bird you’re looking at, their preferred diet can vary widely.

How Much Do Birds Eat?

Smaller species of bird, including sparrows and starlings, consume roughly 5 grams of food each day. Larger birds, like hawks and eagles, need more food to maintain their energy levels—they might be eating around 40 grams each day.

In addition to different weights, there are other factors that can affect how much a bird eats. Birds living in colder climates will naturally need more food during winter months since they burn more energy keeping warm.

How And Where To Place Bird Feeders?

Depending on what kind of feeder you have, you might need to place it near a window, on tress, poles, or other outside surface. Placing it on a nearby tree or bush can keep cats and other predators from getting to your food.

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While you don’t want to place it where hawks can get at it, sometimes that’s unavoidable if there are no other options. But if so, make sure your feeder has some kind of protective netting over it.

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Are you an aspiring birdwatcher? Are you curious about the birds that visit your garden or backyard? There are hundreds of different types of birds in the world, each with their own unique diet and preferences.

Some are fussy eaters, only eating certain kinds of seeds or worms, while others will happily snack on insects and snails! No matter what kind of birdwatcher you are, it can be useful to know some facts about the types of food different birds eat.

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In order to attract birds to a bird feeder, you have to understand what they’re looking for, then provide it. For instance, if a bird wants something salty and sugary but can’t find it anywhere else, it may be more likely to check out your bird feeder.

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