Do Birds Eat Butterflies? (A Look at What Happens)

Do Birds Eat Butterflies? (A Look at What Happens)

Butterflies are an excellent example of the delicate and heartwarming insects that exist in nature. But they also play a pivotal role in maintaining balanced ecosystems. 

Butterflies, as caterpillars, need to eat specific plants, which affects where the butterfly lays eggs later. Without these delicate insects, ecosystems would never stay in balance.

Sometimes people refer to insects as night crawlers or bug burgers. Many animals, such as lizards, frogs, and birds, eat them as a food substitute.

Butterflies are an insect that can be eaten by birds in nature. But which types of birds typically eat them? 

And why do they eat larvae? If you’re wondering if butterflies make up the diet of monarch butterflies, read on:

Do Birds Eat Butterflies?

Birds will eat the eggs, larvae, and caterpillars of certain butterfly species when they’re in their primary or caterpillar stages more than they will during the adult stage. 

Warblers, sparrows, and orioles seem to like viceroys, black swallowtails, red-winged swallowtails and monarchs.

While the types of butterflies vary across a variety of birds, many don’t eat butterflies at all. Let’s explore why birds feed on different butterflies.

Monarch Butterflies:

The common name for the monarch butterfly is Danaus plexippus. ‘Sleep transformation’ is a Greek word. Monarchs morph into beautiful creatures during hibernation and metamorphosis.

Monarchs are butterflies that prefer to feed on milkweed. There’s a substance called cardia glycosides found in milkweed and it is absorbed, digested, and distributed across the surface of the wings.

It causes birds to vomit sometimes when they eat this substance because it does not appeal to them. 

The taste of these seeds is very bitter. However, they cause birds to become ill despite not being particularly harmful.

Swallowtail Butterflies:

Swallowtail butterflies can be large or small and come in many different colors. They are part of the family Papilionidae, which means “with the tail folded over.”

They can be identified by the black spots in an orange oho circle. You can see the orange oho on the back of the butterfly’s wings.

There are more than 550 species, and they exist in the tropical region. Most birds eat swallowtail butterflies such as red-wing blackbirds and other insect-eating bird species.

Do Birds Eat Butterfly Larvae?

While some biologists believe that birds only eat caterpillars, the truth is that they also eat butterfly larvae.

Birds often eat butterfly eggs and larvae, which come earlier in the caterpillar’s life cycle.

Caterpillars eat birds that feed on the leaves. Warblers and tanagers are prey for caterpillars, while woodpeckers and robins eat small caterpillars, moths, and grubs.

Caterpillars are excellent sources of nutrition for birds, and their larvae is a favorite meal for birds that hatch out of eggs. 

A dried caterpillar has 340 calories per 100 grams! Birds have an easier time catching them and digesting them compared to other insects.

Why Do Birds Eat Butterflies?

Birds make their nests from leaves, and one of the many foods they eat are always insect pests. T

hese bugs harbor in leaves, so chewing up leaves provides food to the birds. Birds also hunt insects directly while they fly them.

There are many advantages to feeding butterflies to birds. These keep the food chains of the wild ecosystem balanced.

We’re mentioning a few reasons why butterflies are good for birds, and what they bring to birds:

Nutrition Value:

Butterflies are a great food source for wild birds. Heck, they even have more nutritional value than sunflower seeds, so how are you going to argue with that? 

Wild birds don’t always have access to bird seed, so it’s important to provide them with an alternative. Butterflies happen to be a healthy and convenient way of doing just that.

Easily found:

If a bird is looking for more nutritious food, it’s easier for them to eat something like a caterpillar and its larvae than to go long distances in search of grains and corn from plants.

While plants get nutrients from fruit and pollen grains, it’s not always as much as they receive from butterflies.

Easy to prey:

Lying slow caterpillars are easy prey for birds, who can pick them up with their sharp beak. 

Warblers, who feed at high levels in the air, and Woodstock, whose diet includes lots of arthropods and other small insects on the ground, are often able to find these hungry caterpillars.

Here are some reasons why birds choose to feed on butterflies instead of other food sources.

What Birds Will Eat Butterflies?

The majority of birds that have beaks capable of pecking insects and flies also feed on butterflies.

Below are some of the types of birds that consume butterflies and different parts of the butterfly.

Parrots:

Pretended a wild bird doesn’t eat raw, fresh butterflies to feed their family. It would be better to avoid feeding them any kind of flower grain and stick to bird food to provide.

Parakeets:

Parakeets are a type of small, delicate bird with small beaks. They are not likely to eat live butterflies.

You could give them dried butterflies, their nutrients, or dried caterpillars and their larvae and eggs.

Cockatiels:

You can typically expect a cockatiel to eat commercial bird grain seed, pelleted foods, vegetables and grains. 

Occasionally they will eat fruit and even some “treats”. They are not likely to eat giant live butterflies like the swallowtail butterfly and others.

Finches:

Usually, finches are very small birds. They mainly eat grains, berries, vegetables, insects and certain fruits.

Birds need to be cared for differently. Their diet changes along with the seasons and time of the year. You should not feed them butterflies to eat.

Lovebirds:

Lovebirds love fruit, berries, vegetables, and leaves. Try giving them processed butterfly nutrients available in stores.

Doves:

When feeding doves, it is best to offer them 15-20% pelleted pigeon food and 50-60% grains or bird food.

They should be fed leafy greens and vegetables regularly as well. Thus, it’s in your best interest to not give them butterflies.

Parrotlets:

Parrotlets enjoy consuming blossoms, berries, seeds, and vegetables. Insects might pose a problem for their digestive system.

Cockatoos are intelligent, strikingly beautiful parrots that have a very particular diet.

Cockatoos eat nuts, seeds, berries, blossom, roots and vegetation. You might feed them processed Nutri-Process butterfly food for better health and nutrition.

Conures:

Conure is a type of bird that can be found across the Western hemisphere.

They enjoy eating insects and larval insects, so they are more likely to eat butterflies. Conure can also eat caterpillar eggs and larvae.

Pionus Parrots:

Wild Pionus parrots can be observed eating caterpillars and their eggs, insects, berries, and vegetables. In captivity, they’re fed on seeds and pellet mix.

African Greys:

In the wild, African grey parrots can be found eating a variety of foods such as butterfly parts, seeds, nuts, berries and other vegetation.

Robins:

Robins primarily eat worms, maggots, and caterpillars. This is their main source of food and nutrients. 

They also eat butterflies, which serve as a treat when they’re in season or available. They will also enjoy raisins and other fruit-based foods.

This list includes birds that eat butterflies. Warblers, Woodstock, and orioles are also on this list of birds.

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.

These butterflies are exquisite, but birds do not like to feed on them. We’ve listed down some reasons why this is and what effects it has below.

Grow on Milkweeds:

One of the main reasons birds don’t eat butterflies is that they were raised on milkweed.

The caterpillar eats the milkweed and has it all over its body. The milkweeds contain many different types of chemical elements, including glycosides.

The ability of birds to fly is well known, but there are many elements in the world that can make it difficult for them. 

From eating too much and not being able to digest it properly, to getting eaten by predators, birds are on a journey fraught with peril.

Bitter chemicals on the body:

Monarchs also have a mild taste of bitterness in every inch of their body.

Birds don’t tend to eat them because they might get sick; instead, birds usually stick to eating the oreo butterscotch butterfly.

One of the ways nature finds to combat toxins is when bird wings are altered so that if they taste toxic, the meat between the bones becomes dry and slowly decomposes. 

Monarchs, for example, have evolved a way to pack their bodies with poison, which makes any pests consuming them feel the effects immediately.

Which Birds Don’t Eat Butterflies?

There are a number of birds that don’t eat butterflies. They are more likely to eat vegetables, wild berries, fruits, and seed grains.

Birds such as goldfinches and wood peckers take care of the butterfly-eating bugs.

They can’t digest them like the smaller birds, but they can hunt them down. Birds that don’t eat butterflies are:

  • Hummingbirds
  • Dove
  • Lovebirds
  • Parrotlet
  • Cockatiel
  • Finch

Some very small birds feed on grains and leafy vegetables, or buds. They tend to stay away from giant insects or other animals like butterflies.

Final Thoughts

Large birds that have sharp beaks will eat any part of a butterfly, like their larvae, eggs, or caterpillars.

Woodstocks, robins, warblers, and grosbeak prey on caterpillars mainly, but doves and hummingbirds prefer to eat green plants.

Hummingbirds prefer to eat green plants- and they particularly dislike monarch butterflies.

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