May 22, 2019 | Featured Web Article

Why Are Birds Eating My Flowers?

Hummingbirds aren't the only nectar-eaters out there! Tanagers, orioles, grosbeaks, and finches also have a taste for the sugary fluid, but don’t have the anatomy to gracefully sip as they flutter from bloom to bloom.
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Spring gives a promise of increased bird activity and fresh floral blossoms, but what does it mean when your feathered friends are preying on petals? If you maintain a garden in your yard, there's a reasonable chance that you've noticed birds plucking at your blooms at some point. While this behavior can sometimes be attributed to actual flower-eating, also called florivory, it's possible that those birds tearing at your blossoms are practicing something else entirely.

Incidental Foraging

It could be that a bird is simply sampling the smorgasbord of your backyard as it's plucking away in your garden. Hungry birds, especially juveniles, will peck at a variety of objects to figure out what items are edible and palatable, and where to find them. These avian browsers may nibble on a wide range of flowers of different colors, sizes, and shapes as they seek out effective sustenance.

Insectivory

If you're a gardener, you've no doubt observed that flowers house several species of insects and arachnids. Birds are also keen to this fact, and will rifle through your planters in search of bugs to eat. Unfortunately, some petals might be lost in the process.

Nectivory

Hummingbirds aren't the only nectar-eaters out there! Tanagers, orioles, grosbeaks, and finches also have a taste for the sugary fluid, but don't have the anatomy to gracefully sip as they flutter from bloom to bloom. Instead, these species have to bite flowers off of their stems to access nectar. The voracity with which they process the flowers in their bills may give an appearance of florivory, but they are actually consuming the plant's nectar.

Displacement Behavior

It has been observed that animals that don't compete well with others within their social group will make eye-catching inanimate objects the target of their unspent aggression. Socially frustrated birds tend to vent their disgruntlement on brightly colored things, and flowers are easy victims. A male mockingbird with low social status, having put up with rejection by females and harassment by higher-up males, might take its hard feelings out on a forsythia, destructively pulling off the yellow blossoms with no intention of eating them.





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  • I am excited to have my daughter’s tree this year, since my landlord has removed the lovely yew next to my patio, which was the only shelter for birds at my feeder.
    by pmalcpoet, Mon, 20 Dec 2021
  • Goldfinches will continue as long as Swiss chard is available. I'm watching one eating chard right now (mid-November in Vermont).
    by Brian Tremback, Sun, 14 Nov 2021
  • Birds are on the decline though sunflowers are rarely touched and for weeks hardly .eaten. I'll try a few sparing nuts on the table and a fat ball broken for jackdaws and tits but mealworms were a summer favourite being my go to choice
    by Paul Harabaras, Thu, 04 Nov 2021
  • I’ve been enjoying goldfinches eating coneflower/ echinacea seeds in my new pollinator garden! I will leave the plants out all winter for them if the seeds keep that long? Or should I deadhead and put them in a dry area? Im in CT and thought they migrated, but didn’t know they put in winter coats! What do they eat in winter without bird feeders?
    by Anne Sheffield, Sat, 04 Sep 2021
  • Hi Gary, I will pass your question along to Birdsquatch next time I see him. He knows infinitely more about nocturnal wildlife than I do. Where do you live? That's pretty important in figuring out the answer. But the thief could be raccoons, deer, or flying squirrels. Do you live in the woods? Are there trees near your feeder, or must the culprit climb a shepherd's hook or pole? Dawn Hewitt, Watching Backyard Birds
    by Dawn Hewitt, Mon, 30 Aug 2021