As I look outside, or as I drive my car around, I am noticing so many birds, of so many varieties — they are here and appear to be ravenous. Almost every neighborhood, highway median and open field seems to be attracting birds. I love looking in my backyard to count the varieties I see.

I also notice where all of them choose to eat. It got me thinking about birds’ diets, and how they differ as much as people’s do. I did some research and thought I’d share with you the variety of foods birds eat, and which local species eat what, in case you’d like to attract different species to your yard.

Birds eat seeds, fruit, insects, worms, small mammals, fish, other birds, nectar, eggs, amphibians, carrion and reptiles. Wow, that’s quite a variety! Most us of have bird feeders and fill them with seeds. But this only feeds a few types of neighborhood birds.

Seed-eating species: finches, sparrows, chickadees, cardinals, grosbeak, buntings, nuthatch, red-wing blackbirds, grackles, mockingbirds, blue jays, titmouse, doves.

Fruit-eating species: cedar wax wings, mockingbirds, tanagers, some warblers, some woodpeckers, tropical- type birds, orioles, some grosbeaks.

Insect-eating species: woodpeckers, kestrels, swallows, sparrows, blue birds, kingbirds, roadrunners, warblers, sapsuckers, red-wing blackbirds, flycatchers.

Worm-eating species: robins, killdeer, some owls.

Mammal-eating species: owls, hawks, kites.

Fish-eating species: kingfishers, cormorants, herons, osprey, egrets.

Bird-eating species: crows, kestrels, hawks, owls, herons, roadrunners, falcons.

Nectar-eating species: hummingbirds, some orioles, some finches, some doves.

Egg-eating species: grackles, some finches.

Amphibian-eating species: kingfishers, herons, flycatchers, caracara.

Carrion-eating species: crows, vultures, ravens, caracara, some heron.

Reptile-eating species: vulture, caracara, owls, heron, roadrunners, egrets, hawks, falcons, eagles.

As we can see, some bird species will eat a variety of things. I think a lot of it has to do with what is readily available, what season it is, and whether they are nesting or not.

If you would like to attract more species of birds, you may want to consider making sure there is a good, fresh water source at all times, and not only have a feeder out but plant a variety of native plants that seed, provide protection and possible nesting sites. Make sure you have some nectar-producing flowers to attract the hummers. They are so much fun to watch.

Also, let plants go to seed, have some lower, thicker bushes as well as higher canopy trees. Leaving a little organic material behind can attract insects, worms and small reptiles and mammals for a variety of food sources.

Another really important thing is to keep your cats indoors. Although they are just following their instincts, cats eat just about anything they can catch. So birds, small mammals, and even lizards and small snakes are in danger of becoming house cat prey.

Darla Horner Menking is an outdoor enthusiast and Herald correspondent. Contact her at

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