what do baby birds eat

Baby birds, known as chicks or nestlings, are born entirely dependent on their parents for sustenance. Their nutritional needs vary depending on their species, but one thing is certain: they require a diet rich in nutrients and calories to grow rapidly and develop properly. In this article, we’ll explore the diverse dietary preferences of baby birds and the types of food they commonly consume.

The Importance of Proper Nutrition

Proper nutrition during the early stages of a bird’s life is critical for its survival and long-term health. Baby birds are typically born naked or with sparse down feathers, making them vulnerable to temperature fluctuations. To compensate for this lack of insulation, they require a diet that provides ample energy and essential nutrients to maintain their body temperature and support their rapid growth.

Proper nutrition is crucial for baby birds, just as it is for young animals of any species. The growth and development of baby birds rely heavily on the nutrition they receive during their early life stages. Here are some key reasons why proper nutrition is so important for baby birds:

 Baby birds grow at an astonishing rate, and their diet must support this rapid development. They need a balance of proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals to develop properly.

Proper nutrition is essential for the development of healthy feathers. Feathers are vital for insulation, camouflage, and, eventually, flight.

 Adequate calcium, protein, and other nutrients are crucial for the development of strong bones and muscles, which are necessary for flying and other activities.

 Just like in humans, a nutritious diet strengthens the immune system of baby birds. This is particularly important in their early life stages when they are more susceptible to diseases and infections.

Baby birds have high energy needs. Their diet must provide enough energy to sustain their rapid growth and the energy-intensive process of learning to fly.

 Different species of birds have varying dietary needs. For example, some birds are insectivores and need a diet rich in insects, while others may be granivores and require a diet consisting mainly of seeds. Understanding these specific needs is crucial for their proper development.

Proper nutrition during the early stages of life prepares birds for a healthier and more robust adulthood. It impacts their survival skills, reproductive success, and overall lifespan.

Common Foods for Baby Birds

Here are some food items that baby birds like to eat.

Many species of baby birds are insectivores, meaning they primarily feed on insects. Insects are an excellent source of protein and essential fats for growing chicks. Songbirds like robins, sparrows, and warblers often rely on insects as their primary food source.

Earthworms and mealworms are highly nutritious and are commonly fed to baby birds. These soft-bodied creatures are rich in protein and moisture, helping chicks stay hydrated and nourished.

Some species, particularly fruit doves and other frugivorous birds, may consume fruit pulp or nectar as they mature. Fruits provide natural sugars, vitamins, and antioxidants essential for their development.

best food items for baby birds what to feed baby birds

Seed-eating birds, such as finches, may be provided with softened or crushed seeds to make them more digestible for young chicks. Seeds can be an important part of their diet as they grow.

Waterfowl like ducks and shorebirds may feed their chicks small fish or aquatic invertebrates. These foods are rich in protein and support their growth.

Parent birds regurgitate partially digested food into the mouths of their chicks. This behavior provides essential nutrients and helps young birds develop healthy gut bacteria.

In cases where chicks are orphaned or require hand-rearing, specially formulated bird formula is used. These formulas mimic the nutritional composition of natural foods and ensure the chicks receive proper nourishment.

Certain birds, like parrots, can be fed commercial pelleted diets that are specially designed to provide all the necessary nutrients for their growth and development.

Woodpeckers and other cavity-nesting birds may feed their chicks grubs and larvae found in trees and bark, as these insects are readily available in their environment.

what food you can feed to baby bird

Coastal birds, such as gulls and terns, often feed their chicks small crustaceans and mollusks gathered from marine environments. These foods offer a rich source of protein and minerals.

How Long Do Birds Feed Their Young?

The duration of time that birds feed their young varies depending on the bird species, but it generally follows a pattern based on the bird’s developmental stages. Here’s a general overview of how long birds typically feed their young:

Egg Stage

 Before hatching, the female bird incubates the eggs. During this period, the mother may leave the nest periodically to feed herself but will spend the majority of her time keeping the eggs warm. The father may also assist in incubation.

Hatchlings and Nestlings (0-14 days old)

During the first two weeks of their lives, baby birds are generally fed a diet of soft, easily digestible foods. This diet primarily consists of insects, insect larvae, spiders, and other small invertebrates. Parents capture and deliver these protein-rich foods to the nest to meet the chicks’ nutritional needs.Nestlings still receive moisture from their food, and their water intake remains limited.

Nestlings continue to rely on a diet of insects and small invertebrates provided by their parents. The frequency and quantity of feedings increase as nestlings grow and their nutritional requirements rise.

Some species may introduce a broader range of prey items, including larger insects and spiders, to meet the growing nestlings’ energy needs.

how long do birds feed their young

Fledglings (15-30 days old)

 As baby birds mature and become fledglings, they start to explore their surroundings and may begin to sample a broader range of foods. While insects and invertebrates remain an important part of their diet, fledglings may also start to consume small fruits, berries, and seeds if they are part of their parent birds’ diet. However, these items are typically not the main source of nutrition.

Post-Fledging (Beyond 30 days)

Once young birds have fully fledged and become more independent, they may gradually incorporate seeds and plant matter into their diet, especially if they belong to seed-eating species like finches. However, they still rely on a diverse diet that includes insects, fruits, and other natural foods.

Some young birds, especially those from seed-eating species like finches, may incorporate seeds and plant matter into their diet as they mature. However, insects, fruits, and other natural foods often remain important components of their diet. As they become more self-sufficient, they may also start to seek out natural sources of water, such as puddles, ponds, or other water bodies, to drink.

It’s important to note that the timing and types of food that young birds eat can vary depending on their species. Some birds, such as songbirds, may rely primarily on insects during their early stages, while others, like doves or pigeons, may consume a diet with a higher proportion of seeds from an earlier age.

If you come across a wild baby bird in need of care or if you’re considering providing supplemental food to wild birds, it’s crucial to consult with a wildlife rehabilitator, veterinarian, or avian expert. These professionals can offer guidance on the appropriate diet and care to ensure the bird’s well-being and increase its chances of survival when it’s time to be released back into the wild.

Common Items That Wild Baby Bird Eat (Table)

Food Item Description
Insects Many baby birds, especially songbirds, rely on insects as a primary food source due to their high protein content.
Worms Earthworms and mealworms are often fed to young birds for their protein and moisture content.
Fruit Some species of baby birds, like fruit doves, may consume fruit pulp or nectar when they are old enough.
Seeds Seed-eating birds, such as finches, may be provided with softened or crushed seeds.
Small Fish Waterfowl and some shorebirds may feed their chicks small fish or aquatic invertebrates.
Regurgitated Food Parent birds regurgitate partially digested food into the mouths of their chicks, providing essential nutrients.
Bird Formula For hand-rearing or orphaned chicks, specially formulated bird formula is used, mimicking the nutrients found in natural foods.
Insectivore Diet Specialized insectivore diets are available for species that primarily eat insects.
Commercial Bird Food Some species, like parrots, can be fed commercial pelleted diets designed for their specific nutritional needs.
Grubs and Larvae Certain birds, like woodpeckers, feed their chicks grubs and larvae found in trees and bark.
Crustaceans and Mollusks Coastal birds, such as gulls and terns, may feed their chicks small crustaceans and mollusks from marine environments.

13 Tips for Feeding Baby Birds

Feeding baby birds can be a delicate and demanding task, as it requires careful attention to their nutritional needs and well-being. Whether you’re caring for orphaned nestlings or assisting a young bird in the wild, here are some essential tips for feeding baby birds:

  1. Identify the Species: Different bird species have varying dietary requirements. Before attempting to feed a baby bird, try to identify its species or consult a local wildlife expert to determine its specific needs.
  2. Wash Your Hands: Always wash your hands thoroughly before handling baby birds or their food. Human scents can be harmful and may deter parent birds from accepting their chicks.
  3. Use Appropriate Tools: When feeding, use a clean and sterilized syringe, pipette, or a soft-tipped tweezers. Ensure that the utensils are free from soap residue or any harmful chemicals.
  4. Prepare the Food: Prepare the appropriate food for the bird’s species and age. This may include a specialized bird formula, insects, or other suitable foods. Follow the instructions carefully, and ensure the food is at the right temperature, usually warm but not hot.
  5. Feed Gently: Place the food in the bird’s mouth slowly and gently. Avoid force-feeding, as it can cause choking or injury. Allow the chick to swallow between each feeding.
  6. Determine the Feeding Schedule: Baby birds need frequent, small meals throughout the day, especially in the early stages. The feeding schedule will vary depending on the bird’s age and species. Consult a wildlife rehabilitator or avian expert for guidance.
  7. Mimic Natural Feeding: If possible, mimic the natural feeding process by offering small amounts of food at a time. Most birds are fed by their parents in small, frequent meals.
  8. Maintain Hygiene: Keep the feeding utensils and food containers clean and free from contamination. Discard any leftover food after each feeding to prevent spoilage and bacterial growth.
  9. Stay Silent and Calm: While feeding, keep the environment quiet and calm to reduce stress for the baby bird. Minimize handling to avoid excessive stress.
  10. Monitor for Fullness: Pay attention to the chick’s cues. When a baby bird is full, it will typically stop opening its beak or turn its head away from food.
  11. Consult an Expert: If possible, seek guidance from a wildlife rehabilitator or avian veterinarian. They can provide specialized care and advice tailored to the bird’s needs.
  12. Reintroduce to the Wild: If you’re caring for a wild baby bird, aim to reintroduce it to its natural habitat as soon as it is independent and capable of fending for itself. Avoid keeping wild birds as pets whenever possible.
  13. Be Patient: Feeding baby birds can be challenging and time-consuming. It may take several weeks or more for them to become self-sufficient. Be patient and committed to their care.

Remember that it is often best to leave the care of baby birds to the experts, such as wildlife rehabilitators, as they have the experience and resources needed to provide the best chance of survival and successful release back into the wild. If you come across an orphaned or injured bird, contact a local wildlife rescue organization or veterinarian for guidance and assistance.


Understanding what baby birds eat is essential for anyone involved in their care, whether it’s observing wild nestlings or raising them in captivity. Providing the right types of food ensures that young birds receive the nutrients they need to grow, thrive, and eventually fledge from the nest. It’s important to remember that the specific diet of baby birds can vary widely depending on their species, so researching the dietary requirements of the particular bird species you encounter or care for is crucial to their well-being.


How do I take care of a baby bird?

You should provide a warm, quiet, and safe environment. Try to identify the species and their specific dietary needs. Always feed them an appropriate diet, typically a specialized formula for young birds. Please avoid handling excessively, and seek professional help if needed.

Do baby birds eat eggs?

No, baby birds do not eat eggs. They require a diet of insects, insect larvae, or specialized bird formula, depending on their species and age.

What do you feed a 1-month-old parrot?

A 1-month-old parrot, also known as a fledgling, can be offered a mix of soft fruits, vegetables, and a small amount of specialized parrot food. Consult a vet for specific recommendations.

Can baby parrots eat rice?

While rice is not harmful in moderation, it should not be a primary food for baby parrots. They need a balanced diet with proper nutrients, including fruits, vegetables, and parrot pellets.

Can baby parrots drink milk?

No, baby parrots should not be given cow’s milk or any dairy products. They are lactose intolerant and may have digestive issues. Stick to their species-appropriate diet and water.

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