Good Question: Why do birds eat worms?

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Stock photo | EastIdahoNews.com

Recently, my 4-year-old daughter and I were watching a movie together. A few minutes into it, she asked, “Daddy, why do birds eat worms?”

I don’t know if there were birds in the scene, or if she was just remembering our visit to the new East Idaho Aquairum, which includes a live bird exhibit.

“Hmmm,” I said. “I don’t know. I’ll have to research that and let you know.”

This week’s post is dedicated to my daughter Mandy, and to dads with busy lives who take the time to humor their kids.

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Like most adults probably do when looking for information, I started with a Google search of her question.

The first search result I clicked on provided the first part of the answer. According to an article at Quora.com, not all birds eat worms. Just as there are carnivorous and herbivorous mammals, there are also many classes or orders of birds.

“Most sea birds and freshwater wading types dine almost exclusively on fish, so worms would rarely figure into their diet,” the article states.

Songbirds, however, are more likely to prey on insects.

Bill Schiess | EastIdahoNews.com

Another article from Allaboutworms.com provided a more direct answer to the question.

“Why do birds eat worms? The simple answer is: birds crave protein, but birds eat worms for a variety of other reasons as well. Worms are readily available in nature for birds to feed on and worms are quite easy to catch.”

Other noteworthy points I gathered from these articles indicate worms are not necessarily the preferred food for birds that dine on ground-dwelling creatures. Birds, apparently, also enjoy other foods found in nature, such as fruit and seeds.

At this point, I remembered our own “Living the Wild Life” columnist Bill Schiess. Schiess, who is an avid bird watcher, wrote about his observations on bird dining habits in his own backyard.

“The insects had invaded the poplar leafs during the summer and are in the process of hatching and hundreds of birds are filling up on them,” Schiess wrote.

Bill Schiess | EastIdahoNews.com

“I even watched a chickadee find a beetle and consume it. Whether it was the main course or the dessert, I couldn’t tell, but it was enjoyed.”

I reached out to a local authority on birds to dig a little deeper. Sunny Katseanes is an education curator with the Idaho Falls Zoo. She was recommended to me as one who is knowledgeable about birds. I asked her which of all the birds native to Idaho would be most likely to eat worms.

“Robins,” she said.

Are worms the preferred food choice for robins?,” I asked.

“I think it’s safe to say they prefer worms,” Katseanas told me. “If you give a robin an apple or a seed and then give it a worm, they are going to go for the worm.”

Katseanas went on to say robins can not be seen in Idaho at this time of year because of the scarcity of food.

“The whole reason birds migrate is not because of the weather. Birds migrate because they are hungry.”

As a side note, Katseanas also told me the Idaho Falls Zoo hosts the largest exotic bird collection in the state of Idaho.

The zoo is currently closed for the season, but they will reopen next spring.

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