Jun 26, 2019 | Featured Web Article

How Do Birds Eat?

A blue jay with a mouthful! You might observe them hauling off more peanuts than they could possibly eat, making several trips from your feeder to their cache site.
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Obtaining nourishment isn't a simple grab-and-go process among birdlife. In fact, feeding can be downright challenging for many species. To be able to eat, birds have to first search for food and then process what they find in order to make it digestible, tasks that are complicated for even your everyday backyard visitors.

Titmice and Chickadees

If you have titmice and chickadees in your backyard, you've no doubt noticed how they'll snatch up a seed and quickly flee the scene. This practice allows them to eat in peace, without having to confront more aggressive birds at the feeder. Because of their diminutive size, a small morsel of food fulfills a much higher percentage of their caloric needs compared to the same bite for a larger bird. Therefore, although this behavior involves a lot of movement, the strategy is actually energy cost-effective.

Crows and Jays

Rather than eating at the feeders they frequent, these corvids will carry their food long distances away, to cache their snacks for later consumption. You might observe them hauling off more peanuts than they could possibly eat, making several trips from your feeder to their cache site. Jays and crows perform this behavior at wild food sources as well, such as acorn-laden oak trees.

Owls

Owls, particularly those of the smaller species, need to immobilize their prey after they catch it so that their meal won't fight back or escape. Their solution is to decapitate their catch before they swallow it whole or carry it off to their cache.

Accipiters

Hawks will often pluck their prey directly off the ground, turning their own bodies around in multiple directions as they do so. What they leave behind when they finally fly off with their kill is a circle of inedible feathers or fur, about three feet in diameter.

Thrashers (and Thrashing Birds)

The thrashers of the desert southwest incorporate stinging scorpions and centipedes in their diet. To defend themselves, the birds have to effectively thrash their prey to kill the bugs quickly and crush their exoskeletons for improved digestion. Other thrashing birds include thrushes, which cannot commence feasting on the snails they catch until the gastropods' shells are removed. Many species of songbird have to remove the rigid, tough-to-swallow, and sometimes poisonous bristles of the fuzzy caterpillars they find before they can dine. Additional birds that thrash their prey before swallowing it whole include shrikes, kingfishers, and roadrunners.



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  • I live in Southeastern Massachusetts. Four "orphaned" very young poults (males) showed up in my yard about a year ago. They have been around all year. I do feed them cracked corn, and they come when I call for them. I don't want to over- domesticate them, but they do recognize me as the lady that brings food. They roost in the big oak trees at night. I have a 1 acre lot, with many acres of protected forest out back and a pond on the property.Lately, during mating season, I have had hens in the yard too. We've counted as many as 7 Toms and hens, but today, had just the one stalwart (a very robust Tom) that comes everyday. One of the Toms that has recently made an appearance is wounded, limping with an obvious predator wound. The local wildlife experts say he should make a full recovery, and that he's best left to recover with his flock.I find them to be interesting and beautiful birds.
    by Heather Cole, Mon, 06 Apr 2020
  • You have to put food in it.
    by Truckee Man, Mon, 06 Apr 2020
  • Love listeningto both songs and calls from birds in our woody neighborhood. The two types of birds I immediately recognize are the cardinals and the chickadees. Yesterday afternoon too, I heard a woodpecker. Then it’s time to check the birdfeeders and the birdbath. Then In no time at all the cardinals and chickadees arrive, as if they had been watching me. As it gets busier around the feeders, I also hear thé screeching of the blue jays. I even saw a couple of robins checking out our lawn....spring has arrived as the last pat gesofisticeerde snow and ice melt away.
    by louisabt, Sun, 08 Mar 2020
  • I am wondering about existing nests for Phoebes. I have two outdoor aisle entries to my barn and there are old Phoebe nests up. They ignore them each year and build new nests adjacent to the old, but space is running out. Should I knock down the old nests so they can rebuild?
    by [email protected], Sun, 02 Feb 2020
  • Just wondering, should we put anything in the bottom of the box...twigs, clippings, leaves....anything at all?
    by Hebb, Tue, 28 Jan 2020