Are Birds Herbivores or Omnivores? (Or Carnivores?)

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Are birds herbivores or omnivores or carnivores
Are birds omnivores or herbivores? (Or carnivores?)

It’s common for people to ask or wonder if birds are actually omnivores or herbivores.


This is because most people know that birds tend to eat a lot of plant foods.  But, birds also tend to eat insects and worms as well.  So does this make birds herbivores or omnivores?

Also, some birds eat other animals, so are birds maybe carnivores?

We’ll look at that briefly in this article.

First, let’s define what herbivores and omnivores are.

Table of Contents

What’s a Herbivore Bird?

Herbivore cow eating grass
Cows eat mainly grass and are herbivores

A herbivore is an animal that eats mainly plants in its diet.  But, that doesn’t mean that they eat only plants.

A herbivore can still eat meat or other animals on occasion, and in fact, as we saw in Animals That Only or Mostly Eat Plants, most herbivores do in fact eat small amounts of animal foods in their diet.  Very few animals are strictly herbivores, and eat nothing but plants. (See examples of herbivores at Animals that are Herbivores)

But, animals or birds that are herbivores, eat the majority of their diet as plants, and usually 90% or more.

This is where the definitions can become tricky.  This is because some animals or birds will be classified as omnivores by some, but herbivores by others.

Parrot a herbivore bird
The parrot is a herbivore bird

The Blue Jay is one example of this type of bird.  Blue Jays eat a majority of plants in their diet, and are primarily vegetarian, but will sometimes eat other animals.  For example, National Geographic even claims that Blue Jays eat a mainly vegetarian diet, which would make them primarily herbivores.

Parrots are another example.  Parrots eat primarily seeds in their diet, as well as other plants.  But they will on occasion eat insects.

What’s an Omnivore Bird?

An omnivore is an animal that eats a fairly balanced diet of both plants and animals.

Omnivores usually don’t prefer one type of food over the other, but eat what is available.

Omnivore birds eat both plants and other animals, usually depending on what’s most available.

What’s a Carnivore Bird?

Carnivores are animals that eat mostly meat, or other animals.

Carnivorous birds are usually birds of prey and will hunt for live food sources, or dead animals.

Are Birds Herbivores or Omnivores?

Based on our definition of herbivores and omnivores, are birds herbivores or omnivores?  Well, the answer is that birds are both herbivores and omnivores.  This is because it depends on the type of species of bird.  And there are a lot of different species of birds in the world.

Omnivore bird eating a worm
Omnivore birds usually eat worms

The diets of birds can vary greatly from species to species.  Not all birds eat the same things, and in fact, the diet of birds can vary greatly between species.

In fact, some birds are even carnivores, meaning they eat primarily meat or other animals.

So the simple answer is that birds are both herbivores and omnivores (and even carnivores), depending on the species of bird.

Yet, the majority of birds are actually omnivores.  This is because most birds tend to eat plants, as well as insects, worms, reptiles and other small creatures and bugs.  Some water birds will also eat fish as well.

But, there are some species of birds that are herbivores.  These include Goldfinches, Swans, Parrots, Cockatoos, Geese, some Ducks, Pigeons, and even Blue Jays.

There is one species of bird that is completely herbivore and eats a diet entirely of plants.  This species of bird is the Hoatzin of South America.

Learn more about herbivore birds at Are Birds Herbivores?

Are Birds Carnivores?

Some birds are carnivores, but most birds are omnivores.  Carnivorous birds are birds of prey that feast on dead animals or hunt live ones.  They are usually very good at flying, with excellent eyesight.

When are Birds Herbivores?

Goose herbivorous bird
Geese are herbivorous birds and eat mainly grass

Birds are herbivores when they eat a diet that primarily consists of plants.

The species of birds that eat mostly plants, tend to eat seeds, fruits, grass, nuts, acorns, grains, vegetables, sap, nectar, plants and plant matter, roots, algae, and sometimes leaves.

Geese will eat mostly grass, and Parrots and Pigeons will eat mostly seeds.  Some herbivore waterfowl will eat mostly aquatic plants.

Most herbivores will eat insects, worms, or bugs, but only on occasion or in small amounts.

Herbivorous Birds Examples

Swan herbivore bird
The Swan is a herbivorous bird

Examples of some herbivorous birds are:

  • Swans
  • Some Ducks
  • Goldfinches
  • Parrots
  • Pigeons
  • Hoatzin

When are Birds Omnivores?

Birds are omnivores when they eat a mix of both animal-based foods and plant-based foods.  This will usually include everything that herbivore birds eat, such as seeds, nuts and fruit.  As well as, other animals, such as insects, snakes, reptiles, rodents, fish, mammals and even eggs.

Omnivorous Birds Examples

Examples of omnivore birds are:

  • Blackbirds
  • Crows
  • Pheasants
  • Some Ducks
  • Robins
  • Woodpeckers
  • Chickens
  • Thrushes
  • Turkeys
  • Cranes

When Are Birds Carnivores?

Eagle hunting
The eagle in hunt. A carnivorous bird.

Birds are carnivores when they eat mainly meat as their source of food.  These birds of prey generally will hunt for their food.

They will usually eat rodents, fish, snakes, reptiles, insects and mammals.

Carnivorous Birds Examples

Some examples of carnivorous birds are:

  • Eagles
  • Vultures
  • Hawks
  • Falcons

Are birds carnivores, herbivores or omnivores?

Birds fall into all the categories of carnivore, herbivore and omnivore.  It depends on the species of bird.  There are many different species of birds in the world, and each has a unique diet.

Most birds are omnivores and eat a fairly balanced diet of both plants and animals.  But, some birds eat mainly plants and are considered herbivores.  And other species of birds eat meat and animals and are carnivores.

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