Do Birds Eat Ants? You Would be Surprised

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Birds Consuming Ants in Their Diet: Many bird species commonly eat ants, such as woodpeckers, pigeons, pheasants, sparrows, starlings, hummingbirds, crows, and wild turkeys. Ants are an important component of the diet for some owls, such as the Burrowing Owl, while others, including the Great Horned Owl and Eastern Screech Owl, consume them more opportunistically.
Ants’ Nutritious Value to Birds: For birds, ants provide a high-protein and important nutritional supply, including potassium, iron, and zinc. For birds to have strong muscles, healthy blood flow, and regular heartbeats, these nutrients are essential.
Methods of Hunting and Favorite Ant Species: Woodpeckers use their sticky tongues, whereas other birds use their ground-based foraging skills to capture ants. Depending on the size and environment of the bird, common ant species to eat include flying ants, fire ants, red ants, black garden ants, and carpenter ants.
Effect of Ants on Birds and Nesting Issues: Although most ant species do not affect birds, certain species, such as Southern Fire Ants, may be dangerous to nestlings. Because of their rigid bodies, baby birds are often fed softer invertebrates rather than ants. Keeping your grass short and installing bird feeders in your yard will help draw in ant-eating birds.

Ever seen a bird pursuing ants? Have you ever seen one burrowing under the surface and wondered what it was eating? This page will discuss the several kinds of birds that eat ants, including which ones to eat and how to capture them.

Numerous bird species frequently consume ants as part of their diets. Woodpeckers, pigeons, pheasants, sparrows, starlings, hummingbirds, crows, wild turkeys, antbirds, wrens, and grouse are among the birds that are particularly fond of ants. Cardinals, blackbirds, robins, and small owls are among the birds that eat ants less often.

How Come Birds Consume Ants?

Ants actually have a rather high protein content, especially considering how little they are. A bird’s muscles depend on these high protein levels to keep them robust and ready to soar.

Should birds’ diets be deficient in protein, it might theoretically prevent them from flying and from carrying out daily activities.

Ants are not just high in protein, but also in potassium, iron, and zinc. These three are equally vital to the health of a bird and will support functions like maintaining a regular heartbeat and assisting in the blood’s oxygenation.

Bird Species that Eat Ants

Ants are a common food source for most birds, with some having them as a main course while others are more opportunistic.

Smaller birds would much rather eat ants, but bigger birds seldom do so since catching them may be more energy-demanding for larger, less nimble birds, and consuming ants would need a lot more of them to meet their nutritional needs.

The Woodpeckers

More ants are consumed by woodpeckers than by any other group of birds. They adore them! Ants may account for more than half of a particular woodpecker’s diet in some cases.

It’s usual to see Pileated Woodpeckers, European Green Woodpeckers, Northern Flickers, and Downy Woodpeckers foraging in backyards and gardens for ants, larvae, and eggs.

They will use their sticky tongues to lap up the ants while they use their beaks to burrow into the ground in search of them. The northern flicker and the ground-feeding green woodpecker are more likely to use this technique.

In areas like cedar trees, other woodpeckers—such as the Pileated Woodpecker—will search for ants. For the benefit of certain black carpenter ants, they create large, rectangular incisions with their strong beaks in the hopes of finding gold. Then, they would eat hundreds of ants whole by lapsing them up.

Woodpeckers consume fruit, seeds, and other invertebrates when winter arrives, as ants are less common at this time of year.

It has been observed that Northern Flickers may eat more than 5,000 ants in a single meal!


Due to their voracious nature, starlings will consume almost everything, even ants. Most of the time, they are seen swarming gardens in big flocks to eat while sweeping away insects, especially ants.

Ravens and Crows

Although they don’t consume ants as often as some of the other birds, crows and ravens are frequently seen scouring lawns for insects and devouring ants when they do.


Only smaller owls, such as the Elf and Little Owls, consume ants, and even then, they are not always common. This is due to the fact that it would take a large number of ants to meet the owls’ intake requirements and that they aren’t experts at hunting them either, thus it makes more sense in terms of work vs return for them to eat more large insects and animals.

Wood Pigeons Two of the most prevalent pigeon species that are seen eating ants are doves and pigeons. They usually have a much larger supply of ants in their environments, which is one of the reasons why.

In the US, some birds that consume ants are:

  • Northern Flickers
  • Downy Woodpeckers
  • Pileated Woodpeckers
  • Starlings
  • Cedar Waxwing
  • American Robin
  • Song Sparrow
  • Northern Cardinal
  • American Crow
  • Common Raven
  • Gray Catbird
  • Wild Turkey

Birds that eat ants in the UK include:

  • Green Woodpeckers
  • Robins
  • Blackbirds
  • Pheasants
  • Starlings
  • Wrens
  • Swallows
  • Sparrows
  • Common Raven
  • Blue Tits
  • Great Tits

Ant Types That Birds Consume

The most prevalent ant species that birds consume are flying, red, carpenter, and black garden ants. Certain bird species, such as the Purple Martin, eat fire ants.

Since the ant species that the birds eat are typically determined by what is present in the gardens where they hunt and forage, the location and habitat of the birds are important factors.

Carpenter ants that are black

Probably the most prevalent form of ant that birds eat are black carpenter ants. The woodpeckers, starlings, and sparrows all like these.

Flying Ants

Birds of many different kinds eat flying ants. Swallows chase and catch flying ants in the air on a regular basis. They grab their prey well on the flight because of their acrobatic ability. When they are accessible, which is primarily when the flying ants are on the ground, other birds will also consume them.

Fire Ants

It is well known that purple martins often eat fire ants, particularly the male and mating imported fire ants. These birds, which are mostly found in the southern US, are expected to consume billions of fire ants a year, which has contributed to the containment of the expansion of this invasive species.

While certain other birds sometimes consume fire ants, they must exercise caution since fire ants may occasionally be fatal to birds, especially those that are nesting or raising young.

How Ants Are Foraged by Birds

The majority of birds will pick up ants from the ground, usually on lawns. While most other birds graze on the ground and dig with their beaks to claim their goodies, woodpeckers use their long, sticky tongues to pick up ants from the ground. Most other birds do not have sticky tongues.

This technique of sticking the beak into the ground works well for catching other insects as well, such as worms and spiders, that are hidden under the grass.

The main drawback for birds who forage for ants on the ground is that it increases their susceptibility to foxes, snakes, and cats, among other predators. For this reason, birds often like eating near trees, plants, and feeders rather than on the ground.

Additionally, birds may pursue ants on plants, trees, and branches.

Do ants pose a threat to birds?

Ants don’t usually pose a hazard or cause damage to birds. The exception to this rule is that sometimes, Southern Fire Ants may attack and kill a bird’s nestlings. If you have both fire ants and nesting birds in your yard, you should think about managing and eliminating the fire ant population to protect the birds and their young.

Do young birds consume ants?

Generally speaking, parents do not feed their young ants. This is because, at such a young age, they might be challenging to eat due to their rigid bodies. Rather, they mostly eat other invertebrates like grubs, earthworms, flies, spiders, and caterpillars.

Getting Ant-Eating Birds to Visit

If you want to draw in woodpeckers and other ant-eating birds, make sure your grass is kept at an appropriate length. When the grass is short, this makes it much simpler for these birds to graze and look for ants.

Furthermore, putting feeders in your garden will attract more birds to your backyard. To ensure that the visiting birds have excellent hygiene, keep them clean and well-stocked.

If you own a cat as a pet, you could think about getting a bell for the animal to help warn off any birds. Birds are less likely to visit your garden in the first place, much less feed for ants on the ground if they see cats or other predators as a threat to their safety.

In general, birds will eat more ants in your garden the more of them that come to visit.


Eat dead birds, or do ants?

Ants that scavenge and consume deceased birds include fire ants and carpenter ants. This is not exclusive to birds; most carrion, or dead animals, is what they will seek for, even mice.

Which antacid is safe for avian health?

It is advised to stay away from using any ant killers that include diazinon, bendiocarb, or chlorpyrifos since these substances may all be poisonous and hazardous to birds. Rather, we suggest ant killers that include diatomaceous earth or eugenol. It is okay to use any of these around birds.

Numerous widely used pesticides and insecticides have the potential to damage birds. This may come from treated plants or even from the poisoned ants themselves.

To manage your ant infestation, if at all feasible, consider utilizing growth regulators. These are absolutely safe for birds and other animals, and they may be quite helpful in treating infestations.

I'm Nauman Afridi, the bird enthusiast behind My lifelong passion for birds has led me to create a space where fellow bird lovers can find valuable insights and tips on caring for our feathered friends.Professionally, I'm a brand strategist and digital marketing consultant, bringing a unique perspective to the world of bird care. Whether you're a novice or an experienced bird owner, is designed to be a welcoming community for all.Feel free to explore, and reach out if you have any questions or just want to chat about birds.
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