Do Birds Eat Wasps? 23 Species brave enough to do so

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do birds eat wasps

The question of whether birds eat wasps is a fascinating one! The answer to this question is yes, but it depends on what type of bird we’re talking about. Honey Buzzards, Bee-Eaters, and Swallows are birds that eat wasps and wasp larvae and other flying insects such as bees, flies, and moths.

This is because these types of birds have adapted their diet over time to consume many different types of food sources to survive during the winter months when there isn’t much available for them.

Birds that are herbivores or omnivores will sometimes eat wasps if they come across them while searching for their next meal.

Do birds eat wasps?

Do birds eat wasps? Yes, some birds certainly do! Some species such as the European Honey Buzzard, Bee-Eater, and Swallows such as the Purple Martin will actively hunt wasps and their larvae. Most other insectivore birds will gladly take the opportunity to eat wasps if the opportunity presents itself. Birds such as Sparrows, Bluebirds, Woodpeckers, Warblers, Nighthawks and Blue Jays will all eat wasps if they can.

Why do birds eat wasps?

Birds eat wasps because they’re a readily available food source for them. They also eat other insects like caterpillars and sometimes even small mammals.

Birds that live in the winter months will often search out high protein sources to help them survive through these cold, harsh days of winter when there isn’t much around where they can find it.

Do Wasps Sting birds?

Birds are not impervious to wasp stings, but they have some unique ways to protect themselves from the wasp stingers. A bird’s feathers play a considerable part in its defense and offer a layer of protection between bird skin and wasp stinger.

Birds like the honey Buzzard have thick scale-like facial feathers that protect them when they head into a wasp nest looking for wasp larvae.

Some birds have developed natural chemical sprays that can temporarily paralyze or disorient insects, making catching and eating easier.

Most birds, unlike the Honey Buzzard, only target solitary wasps to prevent being stung. A solitary wasp is much easier to deal with and catch than a larger group that may attack if an opportunistic bird provokes one.

How do birds catch wasps?

Typically opportunistic birds will prefer to target a solitary wasp on the ground or resting on a branch. These are easier targets for birds to swoop down and quickly grab before the wasp has time to take flight.

Some birds, such as the Bee-Eater, are uniquely designed to catch insects like Bees and Wasps during flight.

Once caught, the Bee-Eaters use their long bills to hold the wasp and then remove the wasp stinger by repeatedly hitting and rubbing the insect on a hard surface.

Once the stinger is removed, the bird will apply pressure on the body to discharge any remaining venom before consuming the wasp.

What birds eat wasps?

European Honey Buzzard

European Honey Buzzards are large birds of prey that are specialist feeders whose diet consists mainly of wasp and hornet larvae they can extract from nests. They will also feed on small mammals, birds, and reptiles if the opportunity presents itself.

European Honey Buzzards are one of the birds on this list that are specialist wasp and hornet eaters.

They have long toes and long claws they use for digging and excavating wasp nests. They have special facial feathers designed to protect them from stings and said to secrete a chemical that makes their prey docile.

Honey Buzzards love to eat the wasp and hornet larvae and will not hesitate to go headfirst into a wasp or hornet nest to feast on the larvae. They also seem to have no problem going after adult wasps if the opportunity presents itself.

Bee-Eaters

do birds eat wasps

Bee-eaters are small, colorful birds that are specialist feeders whose main prey are flying insects. They can spot bees and wasps as far away as 100m and typically approach their prey directly from behind.

Their bills are long, curved, and sharp, and they can use them as a pair of forceps, biting down firmly to catch and hold insects in flight.

Swallows

do birds eat wasps
Barn Swallow

Swallows are omnivorous and uniquely designed to catch insects on the wing. They primarily feed on insects by using a hawking strategy, which is a way of catching prey during flight.

They prefer to catch their prey in the air and very rarely feed on the ground. They are incredibly agile hunters who eat various flying insects such as winged ants, flies, grasshoppers, moths, wasps, bees, cicadas, and beetles.

These Species of Swallows eat wasps more than others:

  • Purple Martins
  • Barn Swallows
  • Tree Swallows

Honeyeaters

Blue-Faced Honey Eater

Honeyeaters are a medium-sized bird that is most common in Australasia. Honeyeaters consume a combination of nectar and insects.

These birds will typically feed on nectar during the summer months when there’s plenty around for them to feast upon, but they’ll also eat any insects such as wasps or bees if the opportunity presents itself.

Crows

American Crow

Crows are large omnivorous birds that are common throughout the globe. Crows are opportunistic feeders and will occasionally feed on wasps when they can.

Crows will eat wasps and other insects because they provide a high-protein meal and sometimes may be the only food available at the time.

Blue Jays

Blue jays are large blue songbirds that are one of the most recognizable birds in any backyard. Blue Jays are omnivorous, which means they have a varied diet that includes nuts, seeds, insects, fruits, and small mammals.

Like the other birds on this list, Blue Jays will eat wasps if they encounter them while looking for food.

Magpies

Magpies are large, omnivorous, opportunistic feeders that will occasionally eat wasps, but only if there are no other food sources available to them at the time.

These birds are intelligent and can adapt their diet to survive during the winter months when there isn’t much around for them to feed on.

So, while these birds enjoy eating wasps if given the opportunity, chances are you won’t see two of them fighting over one. That being said, magpies prefer other food options such as insects, carrion, and small mammals.

Tanagers

Scarlet Tanager

Tanagers are small to medium-sized songbirds that consume a variety of foods. Their diet consists mainly of insects, fruits, and seeds.

They primarily pick insects off branches or the ground but will occasionally catch flying insects in the air.

The Tanagers size allows it to easily catch wasps if need be, especially in the winter months when there isn’t much food available to them.

Chickadees

Chickadees are small birds that live as far south as Florida and as far north as Northern Minnesota. These birds have a color pattern dominated by whites, blacks, and grays.

Chickadees are mainly insectivores and will eat wasps if they come across them while looking for food or if there aren’t any other types of insects available to them at the time.

Orioles

Birds in the oriole family are medium-sized birds that have distinctive faces and long tails. They have a variety of food sources that they hunt for, including insects, fruits, seeds, and berries.

They will often eat insects they can forage on the ground or branches of trees.

In addition to hunting for their food, these birds will also eat wasps if they come across them while searching for food or if there aren’t any other insects available to eat at the time.

Warblers

Female Yellow Warbler

Warblers are birds that feed on insects, fruit, and berries during the summer months. These birds will also consume wasps if they come across them while looking for food during the winter months when there’s not much to eat.

Warblers are typically small, brightly colored birds with distinctive faces and long tails.

Sparrows

House Sparrow

Sparrows are small, short-tailed birds with brown and white plumage. These birds will eat wasps if they come across them while looking for food during the winter months when there’s not much around for them to eat.

Sparrows are omnivorous, which means they have a varied diet that includes seeds, fruits, and insects.

Bluebirds

Bluebirds are medium-sized omnivorous birds that prefer insects in summer and fruits and berries during winter. They have blue, and a rose beige plumage which is brighter on males than females.

Bluebirds will swoop down from perches to snatch insects and sometimes even catch flying insects in the air.

With this in mind, bluebirds won’t turn down a chance at eating wasps if they happen to come across them.

Kingbirds

Kingbirds are moderately large white-bellied insectivores that specialize in catching and eating flying insects. They have been known to eat wild fruits and berries when insects are not available.

They either catch their prey during flight or glean insects from the ground or bushes. Kingbirds will occasionally feed on wasps but prefer other flying insects such as flies, beetles, and grasshoppers.

Woodpeckers

Downy Woodpecker

Woodpeckers come in all sizes and are found in wooded areas all over the world. They are omnivorous and highly opportunistic, so they eat various things, including insects, fruit, and berries.

When their food sources are plentiful in the summer months, woodpeckers will hunt for insects such as ants, beetles, spiders and larvae, seeds, nuts, and fruits and sometimes catch flying insects such as wasps.

Cardinals

Birds in the cardinal family are medium-sized, colorful songbirds with a distinctive crest on their head and long tails with rounded ends. Cardinals are omnivorous and eat berries, seeds, and insects. They will, on occasion, eat wasps during the winter months when their food sources get scarce.

Mockingbirds

Mockingbirds are omnivores that will eat any insect if they come across one while looking for food. Mockingbirds are medium-sized birds with a distinctive white stripe on their wings and tail feathers that look like fans.

They will readily feed on wasps or bees if necessity dictates it, but most species will prefer fruit, berries, and seeds over anything else.

Wrens

Wrens are tiny to medium-sized, energetic birds that prefer to eat small insects they can glean from bushes, tree trunks, and debris on the ground. These birds will sometimes (rarely) feed on wasps if they come across them while looking for food during the winter months when there isn’t much around for them to hunt.

Catbirds

Catbirds are medium-sized, gray birds that have long tails and distinctive black masks on their faces. These birds primarily eat fruits, berries, and easy-to-catch insects. They will, on occasion, eat wasps if they come across them while looking for food.

Nighthawks

Common Nighthawk

Nighthawks are medium-sized, nocturnal birds that primarily feed on flying insects during the dawn and dusk hours. Nighthawks will eat wasps if their other food sources get scarce or aren’t available for some reason.

Starlings

Starlings are medium-sized blackbirds with distinctive white patches on their wings and tails. These birds are opportunistic and eat various foods, including insects, seeds, and berries.

They will occasionally eat wasps if presented the opportunity during the summer months when they’re plentiful. Still, starlings will also eat them if there aren’t any other insects around for them to feed upon.

Blackbirds

Blackbirds are medium-sized blackbirds with distinctive yellow beaks and feet. These omnivorous birds will eat a wide range of insects, berries, and seeds.

They feed primarily on the ground and prefer slow-moving insects that are easy to catch but will eat wasps if given a chance.

These birds will also feed on amphibians such as frogs and lizards, mice, or other small mammals if there aren’t any insects around for them to hunt.

So, Do Birds Eat Wasps?

The answer to whether wild birds will eat wasps or not depends on what type of bird we are talking about and their environment.

Birds like Honey Buzzards, Bee-Eaters and Swallows actively hunt for wasps and their larvae whereas the other birds on this list are known to eat other insects, too, because they can’t rely solely on one food source for winter survival.

Different types of herbivores or omnivores may also take advantage if they come across them while searching for their next meal!

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Author
I am an avid birdwatcher with a passion for learning all I can about these fantastic creatures. I love finding new species of birds in my backyard, neighborhood, or when I travel. I enjoy sharing everything I learn about how these creatures live their lives; feedback and experience is much appreciated!

1 thought on “Do Birds Eat Wasps? 23 Species brave enough to do so”

  1. Thank you for your explanations of birds eating wasps and bees. I’m in Michigan and put out jelly and oranges for the orioles and it inevitably attracts wasps and bees.

    Reply

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