In this post, we will look at if birds are herbivores. We will explore what makes them herbivores, which ones are, and what they eat.
Are Birds Herbivores?
Some birds are herbivores and eat mainly or only plants. But not all birds are herbivores.
Most birds are omnivores. This is because a lot of birds will eat worms, insects, or reptiles along with plants, giving them a mixed diet of plants and meat.
Some birds are also carnivores, meaning they eat mainly meat or fish.
There are actually only a few species of birds that are herbivores and eat mainly a plant-based diet. (We’ll list those later)
So essentially, you have a lot of species of birds, and in those different species, some birds are herbivores (mostly plant-eating), some are carnivores (mostly meat-eating) and most are omnivores (eating both plants and meat).
There is only one species of bird that is completely herbivore, meaning its diet is 100% plants. This is the Hoatzin of South America.
There are other species of birds that are herbivores, because they eat mostly plants, but will still eat some insects or meat on occasion. But, the majority of their diets are plants, which makes them herbivores.
Just remember, most herbivore animals eat mainly plants, but will on occasion eat meat. The Hoatzin is unique since it will not eat any meat, and eats only plants in its diet.
(Learn more about herbivores at A Guide to Herbivore Animals)
Video: Are Birds Herbivores?
What Do Birds that are Herbivores Eat?
When looking at birds that are herbivores, that means those that eat mostly plants, what do these birds eat?
Generally, they will eat a very wide variety of different plants. Some herbivore birds like the pigeon, are granivorous and will eat mostly seeds or grain. Others, such as geese, are graminivores, and eat lots of grass.
There are some birds that are frugivorous, and eat fruits and berries. Others, such as the Blue Jay, will eat acorns and nuts, as well as seeds.
A lot of herbivore birds will eat rocks, sand, and gravel to help their digestion. This helps them to digest the fiber of plants.
One bird, in particular, that is a herbivore, the Hoatzin, eats leaves.
Which Birds Are Herbivores?
Let’s look at which birds are herbivores.
The one bird species that is 100% herbivore and eats entirely plants, is the Hoatzin of South America.
The Hoatzin lives in South America and is found in swamps and forests. Their diet consists entirely of swamp plants. These include roots, leaves, and flowers.
The Hoatzin has a digestive system much like the cow, which ferments vegetation. This allows it to digest leaves.
Learn more about the Hoatzin.
Although a pigeon will sometimes eat meat, they mainly eat plants. This includes seeds, grains, fruits, berries, grasses, nuts, vegetables, and weeds.
You might be accustomed to the image of people feeding pigeons from bags of seed while sitting on park benches in large urban cities. Because they eat such a diet, you usually see them in masses in urban areas, where they will eat whatever they can find, or are fed.
Parrots eat mostly fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, grains, plants, and flowers. They will eat insects, but most of their diet is plant-based, with seeds being their favorite. So primarily parrots are herbivores. (See Are Parrots Ominovres?)
If you look at a parrot’s beak, you will see that it is curved. Curved beaks on birds are usually for cracking seeds.
If you have a pet parrot, it’s usually recommended to give them mostly pellets, which are composed of seeds. The rest of their diet can be composed of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
Geese are herbivore birds. They are mainly grazers, meaning they eat grass. If you visit or live near a lake or pond that has geese, you will notice that they walk around a lot in the grass, eating as they go. (See Are Geese Herbivores?)
Geese can even feed for up to half the day. They have serrated bills that are built for tearing vegetation.
In fact, a large goose can consume up to 2 pounds of grass a day! While they are eating grass, geese also are consuming some roots, bulbs, and seeds as well. They might eat some insects or worms in the process, but the majority of their diet is plants.
They will also eat grains, oats, and vegetables.
Geese will sometimes also eat seaweed and other water plants, but they generally will choose to eat grass first. Also, on occasions, they might eat small fish.
Following are some specific species of geese that are herbivores.
Nene (Hawaiian Goose)
The Nene or Hawaiian Goose is a species of Geese found only in the Hawaiian islands. These herbivore birds are both grazers and browsers.
They are grazers because they will eat grass, but will also browse and eat shrubs, leaves, fruit, flowers and seeds.
Snow Geese get their name from their white color. They eat almost all plant-based.
Snow Geese will eat seeds, grain, grass, leaves, berries, and bulrushes, as well as other plants. They can sometimes be found in farm areas where they will feed on leftover grains.
American Goldfinches are bright yellow birds that live in areas where seeds are in abundance. This is because they are herbivores, and the vast majority of their diet is seeds from plants, including sunflower seeds, thistle, and elm seeds.
This means they are a class of herbivores known as granivores.
They will also eat tree buds, weeds, pinecones, grains, sap, and berries.
American Coot – Fulica Americana
The American Coot will eat mostly underwater aquatic plants and algae.
On land, it will consume mostly grass and grains.
Cockatoos feed mostly on plants, and the type of plants varies by the different species. Like the parrot, they mostly eat seeds or nuts.
Their beaks are curved and shaped for consuming mostly seeds. They will also eat roots, fruit, and berries.
Swans are mainly herbivores and eat most of their diet if vegetarian. Swans will eat mostly aquatic plants and plant matter.
This includes the roots, stems and leaves of the aquatic plants.
Some Species of Ducks
Not all ducks are herbivores. Many are omnivores, but there are some species that are primarily herbivores.
Wood ducks feed on seeds, grass, shrubs, grain, berries, stems, and leaves of aquatic plants.
The Ring-necked duck will feed on aquatic plants, seeds, and algae.
Blue Jays are worth mentioning. They are usually considered omnivores because they will eat some small insects such as caterpillars. But, the large majority of the Blue Jay’s diet is vegetarian.
Blue Jays will eat lots of seeds, acorns, berries, nuts and grains.
Common Related Questions
Are birds omnivores or herbivores?
Birds are both omnivores and herbivores, depending on the species. You can read more about this topic at Are Birds Herbivores or Omnivores?
Are birds considered herbivores?
Birds are usually considered omnivores because the majority of birds are omnivores. But, it depends on the species of the bird, and there are many different species of birds in the world. There are species of birds that are herbivores.
Are all birds carnivorous?
No, not all birds are carnivores. Most birds eat some forms of insects or meat, but also eat plants as well, making them omnivores. There are some carnivorous birds, these are birds of prey.
In this post, we have learned that some birds are actually herbivores, but most birds are omnivores. Some birds are also carnivores. This depends on the species of the bird.
The birds that are herbivores eat mostly plants in their diet, including seeds, nuts, fruits, berries, grass, aquatic plants, grains, vegetables, sap and more. Most of these species of birds will eat small amounts of insects and worms as well. There is one species of bird, however, the Hoatzin, that eats only plants and is a complete herbivore.
Lance has been passionate about the plant-based diet for years. We have been vegetarian and mostly vegan for years, following a whole food plant-based diet. We focus on health, natural healing, weight management, animal rights, and the health of the planet and environment through focusing on whole plant-based foods and sustainable practices.
Learn more about the author and this site at the About Me Page.