Butterflies are one of the most delicate and heartwarming insects of nature. They also play an essential role to keep the ecosystem balanced from being a caterpillar to a butterfly.
They also work as a food substitute for many animals like lizards, frogs and many more, including birds.
Birds in nature can be seen eating different insects. Butterflies are one of them. Do birds eat butterflies, and which birds especially do? Why do they eat the larvae, and if they eat monarch butterflies and more!
Do birds eat butterflies?
Birds do eat butterflies. Birds mostly eat the butterflies’ eggs, larvae and in their primary or caterpillar stage more than the adult stage. Warblers, sparrows, orioles like to feed on viceroy, black, red-winged swallowtail butterflies. Orioles also can be seen eating monarch butterflies too.
Not all birds eat all types of butterflies. So, let’s get to know why birds feed on different butterflies.
Scientists call the monarch butterflies Danaus plexippus. This is a Greek word, and it means ‘sleep transformation. Monarch butterflies have a unique ability, and that is evoked by hibernating and metamorphising.
Monarchs are larvae that feed on milkweed primarily. Milkweed contains a substance called cardia glycosides which are later absorbed and spread across the butterflies’ body.
This substance does not appeal to the birds when they eat them, causing them to vomit sometimes. It has a very bitter taste. They are not particularly harmful, but they cause the birds to fall ill.
Swallowtail butterflies are colorful of different sizes butterflies of the family Papilionidae.
They can be identified from the black spots centered inside an orange colored circle. This orange circle can be seen on the underneath edge of the rear wings.
There are over 550 species and mostly available in the tropical region. Most birds eat swallowtail butterflies, including red-wing blackbirds and other insect-eating birds.
Do birds eat butterfly larvae?
Yes, birds eat butterfly larvae. Birds in the wild nature are often seen to feed on butterfly larvae more often than adult butterflies. Birds are often seen eating butterfly eggs, larvae and in their primary stage caterpillars.
Warblers and tanagers are prey animals for caterpillars. Woodstock and robins are also like to feed on small caterpillars, moths and grubs. They feast on the caterpillars that crawl on the ground.
Caterpillars are considered a highly nutritious food for the birds and their larvae also. Dried caterpillars contain 340 calories per 100 grams. Apart from their nutritional value, it is easier for birds to find them, hunt them and digest easily.
Why do birds eat butterflies?
Birds eat butterflies directly or indirectly. They eat their larvae and eggs as well as hunt them eat them as a whole.
There are many benefits to feeding butterflies to birds. These keep the food chains of the wild ecosystems balanced. We are mentioning some of the reasons why butterflies are good for birds and what benefits do they hold for the birds:
Butterflies have way more nutritional values than sunflower seeds or other flower seeds or corns. Wild birds don’t have access to bird foods all the time. Thus, butterflies come as a healthy way to get good food in the wild.
Easy to find:
For wilder birds, it is way easier to get more nutrition from a butterfly or a caterpillar and their larvae than going long miles to feed on pollen or grains from trees.
Fruits and pollen grains don’t always provide as much nutrition to them as butterflies do.
Easy to prey:
It’s easier for birds to prey on lying slow caterpillars on the ground than hunting on insects or small flies. Warblers and Woodstock can easily pick them up with their sharp beaks.
These are some of the reasons birds like to feed on butterflies and get their nutrients instead of other means of food.
What birds will eat butterflies?
Most of the birds in the wild with sharp beaks that also feed on insects and flies will eat butterflies. We are mentioning some of the birds that feed on butterflies and different parts of butterflies below :
Wild parrots are more likely to feed on butterflies. But the one at your house, it is better to avoid raw, wild butterflies for food and stick to bird foods and other flower grains.
Parakeets at your home are small delicate birds with small beaks. They are most likely not to eat live butterflies. You could give them dried butterflies or their nutrients or dried caterpillars and their larvae and eggs.
Cockatiels mostly eat commercial bird grain seed, pelleted foods, vegetables, grains, fruit and the occasional treat. They are likely to not eat giant live butterflies like swallowtails and others.
Finches are really small and heartwarming birds. They mostly eat grains, berries, vegetables, insects and certain fruits.
They need to deal with additional care. Their diet changes according to the seasons and time of the year. It’s best not to feed them butterflies.
Lovebirds eat a variety of fruits, berries and vegetables and leaf buds. You can try to give them processed butterfly nutrients that are available in the market for birds.
Doves should be given 15-20 percent pelleted foods and 50-60 percent food grains or bird seed. They should be given leafy greens and vegetables regularly. So it is in the best interest to not give them butterflies.
Parrotlets eat blossoms, small seeds, berries, vegetables and high-quality commercial pellets. Butterfly or other insects might not suit their digestive system.
Cockatoos feed on seeds, fruits, nuts, berries, blossoms, roots, and vegetation, including leaf buds. You might give them processed butterfly store-bought nutrients for better health and nutrition.
Conure are birds that are large parakeets or small parrots found across the western hemisphere. They eat larvae and insects, so they are more likely to eat butterflies. Conure can eat the caterpillars and larvae eggs too.
In the wild, Pionus parrots can be seen eating caterpillars and their eggs and butterflies, insects, berries, and vegetables and fruits. In captivity, white-capped Pionus parrots eat seeds and pellet mix.
In the wild African grey parrots can be seen eating butterfly parts and other varieties of seeds, nuts, fruits, berries and vegetation.
Robins mostly eat worms, maggots and Beatles, they also eat butterflies. They are their main source of food and nutrients. They particularly enjoy mealworms and other raisins.
These are some of the birds and their list if they eat butterflies. Some other birds such as Warblers, Woodstock and orioles eat butterflies.
Why do birds not eat monarch butterflies?
Monarch butterflies are known as hibernating and metamorphosing birds. Scientists call them Danaus plexippus, the sleep transformation birds.
They are very exquisite butterflies, but birds do not like to feed on them. We are listing down some reasons why birds do not provide on them and what effects they leave on the birds below :
Grow on Milkweeds:
One of the main reasons birds don’t eat butterflies is that they are raised on milkweed.
The caterpillar eats the milkweed, and it spreads all across its body. The milkweeds contain bitter chemical elements called glycosides.
Thus these elements, when birds eat, cause them to vomit and create hazards for their healths.
Bitter chemicals on the body:
This bitter element is not toxic or harm them badly, but thus monarchs have a bitter taste all across their bodies. If birds eat them, they might fall ill; therefore, they tend not to eat monarch butterflies.
Some birds have solved the trick like orioles and grosbeak, like many other butterflies that aren’t monarchs but take their size and shape. They will slice open their body parts and intake to gauge the toxicity level. Thus, they don’t get poisoned.
Which birds don’t eat butterflies?
There are many birds that do not eat butterflies. They are more likely to feed on vegetables, wild berries, fruits and seed grains.
The simply cannot digest butterflies like the smaller birds and also cannot hunt them down. A list of birds that do no eat butterflies are:
These are some of the very small birds and mainly feed on grains or leafy vegetables, or buds. They tend to stay away from giant insects or other animals like butterflies.
Birds with big sharp beaks, feed on butterflies’ different parts like larvae, eggs, caterpillars, etc. Woodstocks, robins, warblers, grosbeak prey on caterpillars, mostly swallowtail butterflies, whereas doves, hummingbirds prefer to eat greens. They like to avoid monarch butterflies.