Do birds eat butterflies?

This bird blog will answer the major question, “Do birds eat butterflies?” we will also discuss how birds prey on butterflies, what happens when a toxic butterfly is ingested by the birds, and do all birds eat butterflies.

Do birds eat butterflies?

Yes, birds do eat butterflies. It is not common for a bird to eat butterflies but they eat them when they are hungry. Some butterflies have toxic substances which can make the bird sick. Birds are smart enough to avoid toxic butterflies. Birds capture butterflies and kill them in the air.

What happens if a bird eats a toxic butterfly?

Following are the consequences of eating a toxic butterfly for your bird:

Liver damage of birds

The first thing that happens is damage to the liver of the butterfly. The liver is the central metabolic station in the body of the bird. When butterflies consume toxins it goes to the liver where it is detoxified and then released from the body. This is the normal mechanism of detoxification by the body.

When the toxins are out of the reach of the liver, they can damage the liver which leads to several other consequences. Following are the major clinical signs of liver damage in birds:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Weakness
  • Jaundice
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Dehydration

Stomach upset in birds

The next thing is the stomach upset in the birds. When a bird consumes a toxin it goes to the intestine and the stomach and it upsets the absorption and the digestive capacity of the stomach and the intestine. 

The most common toxic butterflies are Monarch butterflies. The larvae of these butterflies usually feed on the milkweed which is absorbed in their bodies. It doesn’t harm the butterfly but it does harm the bird that is consuming the butterfly. 

Birds are smart animals and they do not consume the same butterfly again because they have remembered the color of the butterfly having the toxic substance in it.

Following are the major clinical signs of stomach upset in birds:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Dehydration
  • Lethargy
  • Weakness
  • Abdominal discomfort

Kidney problems in birds

The toxic metabolites of the toxic substance circulate in the blood and that blood goes to the kidneys to filter the toxic metabolites of the body. These toxic substances damage the kidneys which can lead to several other consequences in birds.

Following are the major clinical signs of kidney damage in birds:

  • Low urine output
  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Dehydration
  • Edema of the body tissues.

Do all birds eat butterflies?

Yes, all birds eat butterflies. It depends upon the type of butterfly and the type of bird. Some birds eat butterflies more often than any other birds. 

On average birds eat 2 butterflies in a day. It is not advisable to feed butterflies regularly to your bird because it can lead to stomach upset in your bird because butterflies are not the regular diet of your bird.

Birds have specifications for consuming butterflies. For instance, blue jays consume almost all types of butterflies while some birds consume only a specific type of butterfly.

As we have discussed earlier, some birds remember the color of the butterfly and they wouldn’t consume it if it doesn’t taste well. Some birds drop the butterflies on the ground and do not consume them because they didn’t like the taste of that particular butterfly.

How do birds prey on butterflies?

It is the common practice of the birds to capture the butterflies in the air and then kill them. Some birds are smart enough to remove the toxic organs from the body which makes it safe for the birds.

When a bird sees a butterfly flying, It will increase its flight and will keep the eye on the butterfly. When the bird captures the butterfly, it will kill the butterfly at the spot and will eat it while flying. 

Birds like to eat all parts of the butterflies but some birds remove the intestine and the liver particularly as the toxins reside in these parts of the body which are not advisable to consume for birds.

Do birds eat dead butterflies?

No, birds do not eat dead butterflies because they are not the primary prey of the birds. The birds only eat butterflies when they are very hungry and the food is short. They eat butterflies when they do not find food for several hours during their flight. 

Some animals are scavengers that will eat dead butterflies or even dead birds if seen on the ground.


In this bird blog, we answered the major question, “Do birds eat butterflies?” we also discussed how birds prey on butterflies, what happens when a toxic butterfly is ingested by the birds, and do all birds eat butterflies.


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