What Birds Eat Mosquitoes and How Can I Attract Them to My Garden?
Are you noticing more mosquitoes or other garden bugs hovering around your home garden? Did you know that some birds can act as a natural pest repellent? While there are some animals that benefit your garden, many insects do not. And mosquitoes can make your life miserable during planting season. Find out which birds are good to have around, and how to attract them.
Are you interested in a natural way to help protect your garden from nasty bugs? Further, would you welcome a solution that will prevent mosquitoes from ruining your enjoyment of the beautiful landscape you’ve worked so hard to create?
We suspect that your answer to both questions will be a resounding “Yes”! Fortunately, you can invite insectivorous birds to your garden by planting flowers or adding structures that naturally attract such bird species.
The result? A sanctuary for birds that will simultaneously result in natural pest control by eating aphids, pill bugs, and other garden pests. But what about mosquitoes? Which types of birds eat mosquitoes?
So, What Birds Eat Mosquitoes?
Research has shown that mosquitoes are more attracted to people with the blood type O when compared to folks with blood type A (though not other blood types). Blood type depends on different sets of particular proteins called antigens on the surface of red blood cells, including A (type A), B (type B), both A and B (type AB), or neither A nor B (type O).
It appears that other factors may also impact whether mosquitoes are particularly attracted to you. But if your blood is type O, mosquitoes can quickly become the bane of your existence.
Fortunately, what birds eat mosquitoes are quite numerous, so the following bird types may quickly become your favorite fowl:
Migratory birds include birds that nest in one location and migrate to winter in another warmer location hundreds or thousands of miles away. The most common songbirds tend to nest within the United States and winter in tropical regions. Migratory songbirds that are known to enjoy a meal of mosquitoes include the following:
The American Robin (Turdus migratorious) is one of the most well-known migratory birds and is commonly considered a prelude to spring. It’s the state bird for three states: Wisconsin, Michigan, and Connecticut. This migratory bird is a member of the thrush bird family, including the Eastern bluebird, the hermit thrush, and the wood thrush.
Their prey includes mosquitoes, ants, termites, worms, grasshoppers, grubs, and beetles, and they also eat grapes and berries, such as mistletoe berries and juneberries.
The Blackpoll Warbler (Setophaga striata) is a fairly small bird that has one of the lengthiest migrations among the songbirds. The blackpoll warblers breed in northern Canada, winter in northern South America, and then migrate to the eastern and midwestern states.
The males have a black cap, white wing bars, and white cheeks. They have a distinctive call, singing a rapid series of high notes in one pitch, first increasing and then decreasing in volume.
Blackpoll warblers prefer to feed on arthropods, such as spiders, centipedes, millipedes, and lice, and forage for insects hidden among the undersides of tree branches and leaves. They also consume some fruits and seeds.
They do eat mosquitoes (and other flying insects, such as flies and gnats) while flying, so they help to reduce the mosquito population even though these insects do not form a large part of their daily diet.
Barn Swallows (Hirundo rustica) can consume up to 850 insects per day and therefore are among the most effective birds in helping to control the mosquito population. They’re also known for their graceful flight. Unlike many other birds that open their mouths to catch insects along their way, barn swallows dive and swoop to capture their prey.
You’re most likely to attract these insectivorous birds if you live close to a body of water. However, if that’s not the case, you can easily attract them by adding a fountain or birdbath to your garden and keeping it consistently filled with water. You can also regularly leave your sprinkler on.
You may also want to include birdhouses in your garden since barn swallows are known to nest in birdhouses. They also enjoy perching on clotheslines or wires as well as the eaves in barns (true to their name).
Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are the most common North American hummingbirds. They have a distinctive emerald-green head, wings, back, and tail; a ruby-red throat patch in males (white in females); and underparts that are pearly white.
You can attract these beautiful birds by planting their favorite flowers in your garden. Although they tend to prefer long tubular flowers that are red or orange, they are often seen visiting flowers that are purple, yellow, or blue.
They take nectar from over 30 species of flowers, including petunias, salvia, nasturtiums, bee balm (which have the benefit of being ignored by rabbits and deer), phlox, lilies, cardinal flowers, columbines, and more.
You can also attract these hummingbirds by including specially designed feeders in your garden that contain clear sugar water. They also feed on tree sap. But up to 60% of their diet may comprise of insects, including mosquitoes, fruit flies, gnats, small bees, spiders, and small caterpillars. While they are wintering in Costa Rica and Mexico, they have been known to consume just insects because they may have no access to blooming flowers.
Ruby-throated hummingbirds are capable of flying hundreds of miles over open water without stopping. Their wings beat extremely rapidly, up to 75 strokes per second! They must eat nearly constantly to support their high-speed metabolism.
Other types of migratory songbirds can help lower your mosquito population. However, the types we’ve named above are some of the biggest mosquito-eaters. Having regular songbird visitors to your garden will not completely solve your mosquito problem, yet their presence should largely decrease the mosquito population. These colorful, beautiful visitors will also give you a musical gift by regularly serenading you.
Nighthawks (Chordeiles minor), which are not “true” hawks, are nocturnal birds. They are medium in size with long pointed wings that have distinctive white patches. Nighthawks have a small, flat head; a tiny bill; are short-legged; and are camouflaged in gray, black, and white.
They are often difficult to find during the day since they usually remain motionless on the ground or branches. Nighthawks fly in looping, batlike, and sporadic gliding patterns, catching and eating flying insects. They primarily feed on flying insects, including mosquitoes, moths, beetles, and grasshoppers. Nighthawks feed heavily when encountering termite or winged ant swarms.
Nighthawks usually are solitary birds, but during migration, they may form large flocks. They have a loud nasal call that is usually heard at dusk.
Geese and ducks live on the water (hence, the name “waterfowl”) and are known to eat large quantities of mosquitoes.
Certain waterfowl species, such as the India Runner and Muscovy ducks, are known for their fondness of mosquitoes as a meal, including both the winged adult and the larvae. Because mosquitoes lay their eggs directly into the water, where they hatch into larvae, ducks can access them before they develop into adults. Ducklings as young as two days old have been known to consume them.
If your garden has a pond, the presence of ducks and other waterfowl may prompt other species that enjoy eating mosquitoes. Such species include certain types of fish, toads, turtles, and dragonflies.
According to traditional songs and stories, having Eastern Bluebirds (Sialia sialis) nest on your property will bring you happiness. If you and your garden are plagued by mosquitoes, this could well be true!
Eastern bluebirds, which are small birds belonging to the thrush family, tend to prefer nesting in farms, orchards, parks, and wooded areas. You can often find them roosting on branches, posts, or utility wires, where they are waiting for crickets, grasshoppers, or katydids to make an appearance in the grass. The bluebirds will then fly down to catch and eat the insects.
Bluebirds eat large quantities of insects every day, where having just a few bluebirds around your home and garden can help decline your mosquito population. In addition to mosquitoes, bluebirds will eat millipedes, earthworms, and in some cases, small lizards or frogs, and certain berries.
These migratory birds winter from the middle portion of Mexico, and they nest in Texas, Florida, Bermuda, and Nicaragua. They build their nests in woodpecker holes, tree cavities, and holes in fences and stumps.
Eastern bluebirds also enjoy residing in bluebird houses, so be sure to put up at least a few bluebird houses (which you can purchase or easily make yourself). You may notice that bluebirds may arrive in pairs to investigate available bluebird houses early to find the one that is most to their liking. For those bluebirds that do migrate, they’ll often return to the same bluebird house for years to come.
In addition, having a fountain in your garden or a small stream on your property can help to attract Eastern bluebirds since they prefer running water.
The Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) is a non-migratory songbird whose habitat ranges from Texas to Maine. It’s well-known for its beautifully vibrant red feathers, the plume on its head, and its orange beak.
Although they primarily consume grain, cardinals also love to eat mosquitoes. Due to their size, cardinals are also able to dine on larger insects, such as grasshoppers and cicadas. However, young cardinals are fed smaller insects, including mosquitoes, and they do not learn to consume grain until adulthood.
In the East, Northern cardinals reside in suburban gardens, woodland edges, parks, forest clearings, and areas with dense bushes for nesting. In the Southwest, they may nest in streamside thickets or tall brush.
Attracting Mosquito Eating Birds
There are several steps you can take to attract these birds to your garden and yard. Leverage any of the following tools when trying to attract birds, to help them become welcome residents of your home garden.
Always provide sources of fresh water in your yard, such as by keeping a fountain, birdbath, or source of bubbling water. The birds will be attracted to the water and will return during hot weather.
Importantly, however, ensure that you’re not providing a source of standing water because the result will be even more mosquitoes in your yard. Mosquitos typically lay their eggs in standing, stagnant water and wet debris, such as soil in non-draining plant containers or pots and leaves within gutters. Prevent the growth of mosquito larva by adding fish to the water, ensuring that the water is always moving, or using mosquito pellets.
For non-migratory birds, take necessary steps to prevent water freezing during the cold season. Frequently refresh the water in birdbaths to keep it fresh and prevent it from freezing. Better yet, if possible, provide a heated birdbath for the colder weather, since they should prevent water freezing even when it’s bitterly cold outside.
Although you don’t have to worry about mosquitoes in the colder months, you don’t want to discourage non-migratory birds from continuing to visit you. Otherwise, they may not return during those warmer months when you need them.
Having a heated birdbath may also interest other non-migrating, mosquito-eating birds that aren’t interested in feeders, so your result may be more avian visitors in the summer who will assist with your mosquito problem.
There are two major types of heated bird baths:
- Fully integrated baths have a built-in heater that you simply plug in. Due to the heating element in the basin, the water will remain in liquid form even during the coldest weather.
- If you already have a birdbath that isn’t heated, you can purchase an immersion heater. You’ll plug in the heater and submerge the heating element into the birdbath’s water, which will keep some of the water liquid. Although immersion heaters aren’t as effective and efficient as fully integrated birdbaths, both will ensure that your non-migratory visitors will have some liquid water available.
Provide Bird Seed
Try using a wide variety of bird seeds to attract different types of birds, including sunflower seed, blends, suet, safflower seed, and more. Using different bird seed varieties will increase your chances of attracting a large assortment of birds to decrease your mosquito population.
Purchase some bird-specific feeders, such as special hummingbird feeders, that are specifically designed to attract certain types of birds.
Another example: as a medium-sized bird, cardinals have certain preferences, such that they won’t use particular feeders, even those that offer their favorite foods. Therefore, use hoppers rather than small tube feeders, since they won’t be able to move freely enough to access the feed. Hopper feeders enable cardinals to access the feed through a wide trough at the bottom and are rectangular. Further, the pegs on tube feeders may not provide them with sufficient support.
Also be sure to place a mesh net, platform, or tray beneath hanging feeders so that cardinals have more space to feed. A tray under a tube feeder will enable cardinals to land and feed comfortably.
Be sure to purchase feeders with squirrel-proof technology. If you live in an area where squirrels or other animals tend to be “seed-stealers,” you don’t want your visiting birds to get frustrated by repeatedly finding an empty feeder. They’ll simply stop coming, and the mosquito population in your yard will benefit.
Rather, think about purchasing a feeder that comes with a spring-loaded perch. When an animal heavier than most birds tries to access the birdseed, the feeder will automatically close the seed port. If you’ve already purchased a feeder that doesn’t have a spring-loaded perch, consider buying squirrel baffles that will keep squirrels from landing on the feeder from above or climbing the pole from below.
Certain types of mosquito-eating birds, such as cardinals, may also enjoy ground feeding. Be sure to provide plenty of ground-feeding opportunities. This may give them a stronger sense of security, particularly if there are low shrubs or bushes close by. (For more, see below.) In addition, if seeds remain on the ground for a couple of days, this could encourage more mosquito-eating birds to visit.
Make sure that you don’t put all of your bird feeders in one place. Otherwise, the birds will tend to congregate in one area. Rather, you want them to visit all parts of your garden and yard–since mosquitoes will be everywhere. Place your feeders at different levels of your garden and yard, including high and low places, and throughout your yard.
Provide Bird Houses or Nesting Opportunities
Follow the step above, but this time, do so with your birdhouses. Be sure to space them in various places throughout your garden and yard to provide more coverage.
Also consider purchasing bird-specific houses, such as the bluebird houses that we noted above.
Consider planting low shrubs and ground cover in your garden and appropriate places in your yard to help the birds feel protected. Some types of birds enjoy secluded areas, such as those that have dense growth, secluded areas, and several shrubs and trees.
Having ground cover where they can hide can be crucial in attracting more birds since they’ll feel safe in your garden or your property. They’ll also love to seek cover during storms or to obtain shade during hot temperatures. For any non-migrating birds, consider adding trees and bushes that provide particularly dense greenery and sufficient cover even during the winter months.
Because some bird types typically do not use birdhouses and prefer to establish their nests in dense greenery or shrubbery, that is yet another reason to add thick greenery to your garden or yard that the birds can use.
In other words, attract nesting birds to your garden or yard by providing them with several nesting materials. Consider gathering some string and yarn, placing it in an empty suet cage, and hanging this near your bird feeders, so that nesting birds can access these materials at their leisure.
Keep Pets Inside
If you’re a cat owner, keep your cat indoors, if possible. Some animals might be good for your garden, but cats are not if you want birds around. If your cat is prowling around your yard, this will understandably frighten the birds away.
Rather, keep your cat inside where he or she can prowl for rodents and simultaneously allow the birds to help keep your garden clear of mosquitoes. This will be a win-win, enabling both your feline and avian friends to do their natural jobs!
Maintain Your Yard or Garden
In other words, be sure that the water you’re providing for the birds is always clean and moving. Keep birdhouses clean and properly repaired or replaced.
In addition, keep your bird feeders clean and well-stocked. Make sure that all of your feeders are clean and free of mildew, mold, or any debris. Without regular cleaning, feeders can expose your visiting birds to infectious bacteria and other diseases.
Therefore, clean your feeders every two weeks or more regularly if used heavily or affected by poor weather conditions. Use hot water and mild dish soap or an appropriate cleaner. Also, allow the feeders to completely dry before refilling them with more feed.
Remove Reflective Surfaces
Many birds are territorial and are constantly on alert, ready to defend and protect their territory against intruders. When such birds feel threatened, they may attack their reflections if they see it in a mirror, window, or anything with a shiny, reflective surface. The result may be extreme stress and injury, including beak damage.
Do your best to protect visiting birds from reflective surfaces, including mirrors or gazing balls in your garden or yard. Gazing balls may be positioned inside flower beds to accent colors and reflect a plant’s petals. Some group several garden gazing balls of different colors and shapes, whereas others may add weights to garden globes to reflect off and decorate the surface of ponds.
Prevent the birds from attacking their reflected images by covering car mirrors with an opaque material, using decals or netting on windows, or taking other appropriate measures.
Now you know which birds eat mosquitoes. Remember, mosquitoes are no joke: they cause devastating diseases, and they are endlessly annoying, to put it mildly.
Fortunately, we can take all the measures above to attract beautiful birds to our home gardens, both decreasing the mosquito population and improving our and our avian friends’ quality of life.