Many birds, despite having certain dietary preferences, are opportunistic and eagerly try different foods. Some foods are just so weird, however, that birders might do a double take if they find birds munching down on these delicacies.
Strange Bird Foods – That Birds Really Do Eat!
Any bird might nibble at something unusual once in a while, but these strange foods are a regular part of different birds’ diets.
See also: Top 3 Worst Bird Feeding Mistakes
Many birds hunt fish, but kelp gulls (Larus dominicanus) go for the ultimate prey when they attack right whales. When a whale surfaces, the gulls swoop onto its body and tear away chunks of flesh and blubber. This can make for a fast, filling meal. Often, an entire gull flock may feed on a single whale. The frenzy doesn’t last long before the whale submerges.
Different honeyguide species, especially the greater honeyguide (Indicator indicator) in southern Africa, have a unique relationship with humans. Using a series of back-and-forth calls, they guide people to large, natural beehives. After humans harvest the honey, the birds feast on the remaining beeswax and honeycomb. This relationship is so intertwined that some people deliberately leave a portion of the wax as a reward for the birds’ help in finding the hive.
Birds aren’t typically bloodthirsty, but in the Galapagos Islands, the sharp-beaked ground-finch (Geospiza difficilis) will readily sip blood. These small birds with delicate, pointed bills harass boobies and peck away at wounds on the larger birds’ feet. While blood is not their entire diet, it is a significant enough that these birds have earned the nickname “vampire finches.”
Killing mammals is the feeding strategy of large raptors. It is a remarkable surprise, then, that great tits (Parus major) hunt bats. These birds drag the roosting mammals out of cavities and beating them to death before feeding. Normally these insectivorous songbirds are mild-mannered, but when food is scarce in winter, they resort to this brutal hunting behavior.
Many carnivorous birds eat reptiles, but turtles are usually protected by their sturdy shells. Golden eagles (Aquila chrysaetos) have overcome that defense, however. They will pick up a turtle, soar hundreds of feet high, and drop the turtle onto a rocky surface to crack the shell so they can reach the meat. This lets the eagles feed in peace without risking prey that may fight back.
Birds aren’t able to digest much milk, but blue tits (Cyanistes caeruleus) have learned what milk is best to sip. When milk bottles were delivered to porches, the birds learned to recognize the foil caps and pierced the tops to sip the cream. When different types of milk were present, the birds learned which colors would indicate whole milk with more cream to drink.
Birds don’t visit bars, but some birds do feast on fermented fruit and berries. At times, cedar waxwings (Bombycilla cedrorum) and other waxwing species, as well as winter thrushes, may consume enough spoiled fruit to display symptoms of intoxication. They may display erratic flight, falling to the ground, or wooziness until they metabolize the alcohol and recover.
Offering Weird Foods at Backyard Feeders
While some birds may have unbelievably odd diets, you should not offer such specialized foods in your yard. Because so few birds enjoy these unique treats, it is more likely that the food would rot or unintentionally attract unwanted wildlife. Instead, birders should offer different types of birdseed, suet, fruit, jelly, nectar, and mealworms at their bird feeders. Birds enjoy the variety, and offering different foods will attract a wide range of species.