What are the Birds that feed on Cicadas? Explained!




What are the Bird Species that feed on Cicadas

Cicadas are insects known for their loud, distinctive calls. They play a key role in ecosystems by aerating soil and serving as food for many animals. 

Understanding which birds eat cicadas helps us appreciate these insects’ role in nature. 

Birds that feed on cicadas help control their population, maintaining a balance in the environment. 

Studying these predator-prey relationships reveals how interconnected our natural world is and highlights the importance of each species in maintaining ecological health. 

This knowledge aids in conservation efforts and ensures the protection of both cicadas and their avian predators.

Understanding Cicadas

Cicadas are fascinating insects known for their loud, buzzing songs and unique life cycles. Let’s dive into their life stages and the different types of cicadas.

Cicada Life Cycle

Cicadas go through a complex life cycle that includes three main stages: egg, nymph, and adult.

Egg: Female cicadas lay their eggs in tree branches. After about six weeks, the eggs hatch into tiny nymphs.

Nymph: The nymphs fall to the ground and burrow into the soil. They spend several years underground, feeding on tree roots. During this time, they grow and molt multiple times.

Adult: When the nymphs are ready, they emerge from the ground, climb a tree, and shed their skin one last time to become adults. Adult cicadas live for only a few weeks, during which they mate and lay eggs, continuing the cycle.

Types of Cicadas

There are two main types of cicadas: periodical cicadas and annual cicadas.

Periodical Cicadas: These cicadas have long life cycles of 13 or 17 years, depending on the species. They emerge in large numbers, often overwhelming predators, ensuring that enough of them survive to reproduce.

Annual Cicadas: Unlike their periodical relatives, annual cicadas emerge every year. They have shorter life cycles, typically around two to five years. These cicadas are less synchronized, so only a few emerge at a time, making them less noticeable.

Bird Species That Feed on Cicadas

Cicadas are a rich food source for many birds. Here, we’ll look at some North American birds that love to feast on cicadas.

North American Birds

Common Grackles

Description and Habitat:
Common grackles are large, blackbirds with iridescent feathers that shine in shades of purple, blue, and green. They thrive in various habitats, including forests, fields, and urban areas.

Feeding Behavior on Cicadas:
Grackles are opportunistic feeders, meaning they eat whatever food is available. When cicadas emerge, grackles eagerly hunt and consume them. They use their sharp beaks to catch cicadas, often snatching them in mid-air.

Blue Jays

Description and Habitat:
Blue jays are easily recognizable with their bright blue feathers, white underparts, and distinctive crests. They are found in woodlands, parks, and residential areas across North America.

Feeding Behavior on Cicadas:
Blue jays are known for their intelligence and adaptability. During cicada season, they take advantage of the abundance of these insects. They are skilled at plucking cicadas from tree branches and even from the ground.

American Robins

Description and Habitat:
American robins are popular backyard birds with grayish-brown backs, orange-red chests, and cheerful songs. They are common in gardens, parks, and forests.

Feeding Behavior on Cicadas:
Robins primarily forage on the ground, and during cicada emergence, they find plenty of these insects to eat. 

Robins will dig in the soil or catch cicadas as they emerge from their nymph stages, making cicadas a substantial part of their diet during these times.

European Birds

Common Starlings

Description and Habitat:
Common starlings, also known simply as starlings, are small to medium-sized birds with glossy black feathers that shimmer with green and purple hues. 

They are highly adaptable and can be found in urban areas, farmlands, and woodlands across Europe.

Feeding Behavior on Cicadas:
Starlings are social birds that often feed in large flocks. When cicadas are abundant, starlings actively hunt them. 

They use their sharp beaks to catch cicadas both in flight and on tree branches. Their agile movements make them efficient cicada predators.

European Rollers

Description and Habitat:
European rollers are striking birds with bright blue and brown plumage. They prefer open habitats such as savannas, grasslands, and agricultural fields in southern and eastern Europe.

Feeding Behavior on Cicadas:
Rollers are known for their acrobatic flight and keen hunting skills. During cicada season, they perch on high vantage points to spot their prey. 

Once a cicada is spotted, rollers swoop down to catch it in mid-air, making cicadas an important part of their diet.

Asian Birds


Description and Habitat:
Drongos are sleek, black birds with a distinctive forked tail. They are common in well wooded forests, open forests, fields, and urban areas throughout Asia.

Feeding Behavior on Cicadas:
Drongos are agile fliers and expert hunters. They often perch conspicuously while scanning for insects, including cicadas. 

When they spot a cicada, they quickly dart out to catch it, often in mid-air. Their aggressive hunting style ensures they get plenty of cicadas to eat.

Oriental Magpie-Robins

Description and Habitat:
Oriental magpie-robins are small, black-and-white birds with long tails. They inhabit gardens, forests, and urban areas across South and Southeast Asia.

Feeding Behavior on Cicadas:
Magpie-robins forage on the ground and in low vegetation. During cicada emergence, these birds actively seek out the insects, catching them from tree trunks and branches. 

Their diet becomes rich in cicadas, providing them with essential nutrients.

African Birds

African Hoopoes

Description and Habitat:
African hoopoes are easily recognizable birds with striking black and white striped wings and a distinctive crest on their heads. They are found in open woodlands, savannas, and gardens across sub-Saharan Africa.

Feeding Behavior on Cicadas:
Hoopoes have long, curved beaks that they use to probe the ground and tree bark for insects, including cicadas. When cicadas are plentiful, hoopoes catch them by pecking at tree trunks and branches or even snatching them in flight.

Woodland Kingfishers

Description and Habitat:
Woodland kingfishers are colorful birds with bright blue wings, a red bill, and white underparts. They inhabit open woodlands, forest edges, and riverbanks in sub-Saharan Africa.

Feeding Behavior on Cicadas:
Kingfishers are known for their excellent hunting skills. During cicada season, they perch on branches and watch for cicadas. Once they spot one, they swoop down to catch it with precision. 

Cicadas provide a rich source of protein for these birds.

Australian Birds

Noisy Miners

Description and Habitat:
Noisy miners are medium-sized birds with gray bodies, black crowns, and yellow patches behind their eyes. They are common in urban areas, forests, and woodlands throughout eastern Australia.

Feeding Behavior on Cicadas:
As their name suggests, noisy miners are loud and social birds. They often feed in groups and are highly territorial. When cicadas emerge, noisy miners catch them on the ground and in trees, making cicadas a key part of their diet.

Australian Magpies

Description and Habitat:
Australian magpies are black and white birds with a distinctive melodious call. They are found in a variety of habitats, including open fields, parks, and suburban areas across Australia.

Feeding Behavior on Cicadas:
Magpies are versatile feeders. They forage on the ground and in trees, and during cicada season, they actively hunt for cicadas. 

Magpies use their strong beaks to catch cicadas, often digging them out of the ground or plucking them from tree trunks.

Ecological Impact of Cicada Predation

Cicadas are more than just noisy insects; they play a crucial role in the ecosystem, particularly through their interactions with birds. Let’s explore the ecological impact of cicada predation.

Benefits to Bird Populations

Nutritional Value of Cicadas

Cicadas are rich in protein and other essential nutrients, making them a highly nutritious food source for birds. 

During cicada emergence, birds can easily find and consume large quantities of these insects. This abundance of food provides birds with the energy needed for various activities, including migration and raising their young.

Impact on Bird Breeding Success

The availability of cicadas can significantly impact bird breeding success. When cicadas are plentiful, birds have an easier time finding food for their chicks. 

This increased food supply can lead to higher survival rates for bird offspring, contributing to healthier and more robust bird populations. 

Some studies suggest that bird species may even time their breeding season to coincide with cicada emergencies, ensuring an ample food supply for their young.

Impact on Cicada Populations

Natural Population Control

Bird predation acts as a natural control mechanism for cicada populations. When cicadas emerge in large numbers, birds help keep their populations in check by feeding on them. 

This predation prevents cicada numbers from growing too large, which could otherwise lead to imbalances in the ecosystem.

Influence on Cicada Population Cycles

Cicada population cycles can be influenced by predation. In years when bird populations are high, more cicadas are consumed, which can reduce the number of cicadas that survive to reproduce. 

Conversely, in years with fewer predators, more cicadas may survive and emerge in larger numbers in the following cycles. 

This dynamic interaction helps maintain a balance between predator and prey populations.

Observing Birds Feeding on Cicadas

Watching birds feed on cicadas can be a fascinating experience. Let’s explore the best times and locations to observe this behavior, along with some tips for successful birdwatching.

Best Times and Locations

Seasonal Considerations

The best time to observe birds feeding on cicadas is during cicada emergence. This typically happens in late spring to early summer, depending on the species of cicada. 

Periodical cicadas, which emerge every 13 or 17 years, can create spectacular bird watching opportunities when they appear in massive numbers.

Habitat Preferences

To observe birds feeding on cicadas, visit habitats where both are commonly found. 

Cicadas thrive in wooded areas, forests, and even suburban neighborhoods with plenty of trees. 

Birds that feed on cicadas, such as blue jays, grackles, and robins, also frequent these areas. Parks, nature reserves, and forest edges are ideal locations to witness this interaction.

Tips for Birdwatching

Necessary Equipment

To enhance your bird watching experience, bring the following equipment:

  • Binoculars: Essential for getting a close-up view of birds feeding on cicadas.
  • Field Guide: A bird identification book or app helps you recognize different bird species.
  • Notebook: Useful for jotting down observations and keeping track of different species.

Techniques for Successful Observation

To maximize your chances of seeing birds feed on cicadas, follow these tips:

  • Be Patient: Birdwatching requires patience. Find a comfortable spot and wait quietly.
  • Stay Quiet: Birds are sensitive to noise. Keep your movements and sounds minimal to avoid scaring them away.
  • Look Up and Down: Birds may catch cicadas in the air, on tree trunks, or on the ground. Keep your eyes moving to catch all the action.
  • Early Morning: Birds are most active in the early morning. Plan your birdwatching sessions accordingly.

Conservation Considerations

Protecting bird species that feed on cicadas is essential for maintaining biodiversity and healthy ecosystems. Let’s explore some conservation considerations related to these birds.

Threats to Bird Species

Habitat Loss

One of the major threats to bird species that feed on cicadas is habitat loss. 

Deforestation, urbanization, and agricultural expansion can lead to the destruction of their natural habitats. 

Without suitable habitats, these birds struggle to find food and reproduce, putting their populations at risk.

Climate Change

Climate change poses another significant threat to bird species. 

Rising temperatures, altered precipitation patterns, and extreme weather events can disrupt ecosystems, affecting cicada populations and the availability of food for birds. 

Migration patterns may also be affected, leading to mismatches in timing between bird arrivals and cicada emergencies.

Protecting Bird Habitats

Conservation Efforts

Conservation organizations and agencies work tirelessly to protect bird habitats. They establish protected areas, restore degraded habitats, and implement sustainable land management practices. 

These efforts help create safe spaces for birds to feed, breed, and thrive.

Role of Citizen Science

Citizen science plays a vital role in bird conservation. Birdwatchers and enthusiasts can contribute valuable data by participating in bird surveys, reporting sightings, and monitoring bird populations. 

This information helps researchers and conservationists make informed decisions about conservation priorities and strategies.


In conclusion, birds that feed on cicadas play a vital role in the ecosystem. 

They help control cicada populations, maintain biodiversity, and support healthy ecosystems. 

By observing and understanding these interactions, we gain valuable insights into the interconnectedness of nature. 

Conservation efforts to protect bird habitats and preserve natural predator-prey relationships are crucial for sustaining bird populations and ensuring the well-being of our environment. 

Let’s continue to appreciate and safeguard the diverse bird species that rely on cicadas as part of their diet.