What Do Baby Birds Eat?

Written by Nixza Gonzalez
Updated: May 3, 2023
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Sweet and too adorable to ignore, baby birds require special diets. There are over 11,000 species of birds and they each have their unique traits, but what do baby birds eat?

Baby birds mainly eat insects, but they can snack on vegetables and fruits found by their mothers. Since baby birds grow fast, their bodies need protein. Hungry baby birds, though, rely on their mothers until they are old enough to fly and obtain their food.

baby hummingbirds eating

Baby birds stay in their nest and rely on their parents for 2 to 10 weeks.

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What do Baby Birds Eat?

We all think of hatchlings perched in a nest just waiting for their parents to bring food to them. We can visualize their stretched necks and high-pitched cries begging to be fed. So what do baby birds eat actually when the meals arrive? Mother birds feed baby birds by regurgitating the food they hunt. Anything a mother bird eats, the baby bird also eats.

Baby birds eat insects like worms, mosquitos, flies, crickets, and beetles. Sometimes, mother birds provide babies with nuts, fruits, and vegetables, but this is rare. Birds grow quickly since they leave their nests by about two weeks old.

What do Adult Birds Eat?

As soon as a baby bird is old and strong enough to fly from the nests, they do not have to rely on their parents anymore. What do baby birds eat once they become adults? All birds eat different foods, but most adult birds eat nuts, nectar, seeds, spiders, small mammals, and fish.

When the sun fully rises, you have the best luck of catching an adult bird feasting. Adult birds eat diets that vary during different seasons. During the Spring, adult birds compete for low food supplies, which results in lighter diets.

What do Baby Ravens Eat?

The common raven is a massive bird with large wings and a wide beak. They look similar to crows but are larger and less common in public spaces. Instead, raven birds choose to live in open spaces surrounded by nature and a secure food supply.

Baby ravens, like other baby birds, rely on their parents for food until they are old enough to leave the nest. Adult ravens bring food scraps, trash, small mammals, nuts, lizards, fish, and raw meat.

Baby ravens leave their nests 4-5 weeks after hatching. They are born blind and featherless, but rapidly grow feathers and gain their eyesight as they eat a diet high in protein. 

Young Common Raven birds in the nest.

Young ravens eat raw meat, trash, and food scraps.


What do Baby Sparrows Eat?

Not all bird species eat the same foods. Sparrows are magnificent birds that grow between 4 to 8 inches. These birds are super small, but don’t let their size fool you as they have large appetites! 

Amazingly, these adorable songbirds live throughout the United States in wooded areas like forests and large fields. These birds are also very shy but open up to humans with a few actions. If you leave bird feeders with tasty seeds you might attract them.

Some stores offer products that have specific sparrow favorites that can attract these lovely birds. Baby sparrows need their parents to survive until they can hunt on their own away from the nest.

Parent birds feed their babies grains, plant seeds, insects, and bird seeds. Adult sparrows usually eat grains and seeds, but they occasionally will find raw meat from small mammals and invertebrates and vitamins from fresh fruits and berries.

What do Baby Ducks Eat?

Ducklings are adorable fuzzy aquatic birds. Ducks are waterfowls that can swim, fly, and walk. Ducklings and adult ducks cannot eat the same diet as both have unique needs. Ducklings are growing animals that require a lot of protein and nutrients to grow.

Unlike other types of baby birds, ducks follow their mom around and have more mobility. These swimming birds have water-proof feathers and rounded beaks.

Most baby ducks eat bugs like worms and caterpillars, algae, plant roots and vegetation, and bird seeds. If you are taking care of a baby duck, you can feed them fruit scraps. Ducklings can eat on their own but struggle to hunt until they are a little larger.

There are dozens of different ducks, including mallard ducks. Muscovy ducks are massive, weighing up to 15 pounds. These ducks have yellow and white feathers and eat similar diets to mallards.

These silly birds are super friendly, which explains why they are common in crowded parks, lakes, and playgrounds. Ducks are also not afraid to sneak and take human food like bread, although bread is not good for them.

Baby duckling
Ducklings mainly feast on vegetation like algae, but they can also hunt for small fish and birds.

What do You Feed a Baby Bird You Find in the Wild?

Did you recently find a baby bird in the wild? As tempting as it is to grab this baby bird and save them, don’t immediately pick them up! Some mother bird species will abandon their baby birds and even eat them (talk about savage!) if their scent is different.

Also, parent birds fly frequently throughout the day to hunt for food. You cannot always tell when a baby bird is truly abandoned. If the mama bird does not come back and you feel scared for the baby bird, take them into your home.

What do baby birds eat when they’ve been rescued? Feeding a baby bird at home is like feeding other wild birds at home. Your best bet is to take a quick trip to a local pet store for bird seeds. Moist dog food and no-season raw liver are also super nutritious for baby birds to consume. High levels of salt or sodium can cause harm, though, so make sure all the food you provide the baby bird does not have additional seasonings.

What Not to Feed Baby Birds

Just like there’s a list of foods to feed baby birds, there is another list of foods you should avoid. Accidentally giving a baby bird food that is hard to digest can cause health issues and in worst-case scenarios, death!

Did you know that bread is not good food for birds? Baby and adult birds alike should have a heavy protein diet. Bread is mainly carbohydrates and causes baby birds to bloat.

As delicious as it is for us to enjoy a highly seasoned dish, this can harm baby birds! Never give a baby bird a seasoned snack like beef jerky as it can kill them.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/LARISA SHPINEVA

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About the Author

Nixza Gonzalez is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering topics like travel, geography, plants, and marine animals. She has over six years of experience as a content writer and holds an Associate of Arts Degree. A resident of Florida, Nixza loves spending time outdoors exploring state parks and tending to her container garden.

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