Worms make up an important part of many birds’ diets. If you’ve noticed robins, blackbirds, or other common backyard birds pulling worms out of the ground, you may be wondering why these birds feast on worms and which species tend to eat them the most.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Earthworms and other types of worms are a nutritious source of protein for many bird species. Birds like robins, starlings, thrushes, and blackbirds regularly eat worms as part of their varied diets.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the reasons birds eat worms, which species consume them the most, how birds find and catch worms, the nutritional benefits of worms for birds, and interesting facts about birds that eat worms.

Why Do Birds Eat Worms?

Birds feast on worms for several key reasons. Worms provide quality nutrition, are easy to find, and do not put up much of a fight when caught, making them an ideal snack for our feathered friends.

High in Protein

Worms contain high amounts of protein, which birds need plenty of. In fact, worms can contain 60-70% protein, making them a nutrient-dense food source. The protein helps fuel birds and aids growth and development. Whether it’s a robin, blue jay, or chickadee, worms offer an excellent protein boost.

Readily Available Food Source

Worms are found almost everywhere, making them a readily available food source for birds. Backyard birds can easily grab worms from grass and soil. Many types of birds, like robins and blackbirds, follow behind lawn mowers to swiftly pick up worms exposed by the blades.

Worm abundance and accessibility make them a prime target.

Easily Caught Prey

Worms move slowly and live underground or under debris, making them far easier for birds to catch than speedy insects or alert rodents. Birds employ special techniques like ground foraging to dig up subterranean worms. Their excellent vision guides them to stealthily grab exposed worms.

With little to no effort, birds can snag nutritious worms to fill their bellies.

Bird Species that Eat Worms

American Robin

The American Robin is one of the most common and widespread birds found in North America. These familiar backyard birds have a distinctive reddish-orange breast and are known for their cheerful spring song. Robins are omnivorous birds that feed on a wide variety of prey, including earthworms.

Earthworms make up a significant part of the American Robin’s diet during spring and summer when the ground is soft and earthworms are plentiful near the surface. Robins forage mostly by sight, and can often be seen running across lawns or pavements and stopping suddenly to pull an earthworm out of the ground.

American Robins will consume up to 40% of their body weight in earthworms per day during peak feeding periods. Worms provide an abundant source of protein for breeding and nesting Robins.

European Starling

The European Starling is an introduced species in North America that has become extremely numerous. These black birds with speckled plumage can be found across the continent, often gathering in immense flocks.

European Starlings are opportunistic omnivores and will eat a wide variety of foods depending on availability. Earthworms are a dietary staple for European Starlings. These intelligent birds often forage for earthworms in lawns, fields, and other open areas by probing into the ground.

European Starlings have specialized bills that are adept at pulling earthworms out of the soil. Worms provide a nutritious source of protein for starlings, especially during their breeding season. It’s estimated that earthworms may account for over 60% of the European Starling’s diet by volume during spring and summer months when worms are active closer to the surface.

Common Blackbird

The Common Blackbird is a thrush species found throughout much of Europe, Asia, and North Africa. Males are mostly black with a distinctive orange-yellow bill and eye ring. Females are dark brown in color. Common Blackbirds are ground foraging omnivores and earthworms make up much of their diet.

They use their strong bills to probe soft soil and leaf litter searching for worms. Earthworms are an essential source of protein for Common Blackbirds, especially during the breeding season when demand for food is high.

Researchers have found that worm biomass can account for over 60% of the total food biomass consumed by breeding Common Blackbirds in forest habitats. Their ability to find and consume worms helps ensure successful reproduction.


Thrushes are a family of medium-sized songbirds that includes species such as robins, blackbirds, nightingales, and bluebirds. Many thrush species regularly consume earthworms which are easily captured with their strong bills. Worms are an excellent source of protein for growing nestlings.

Some thrushes like the American Robin may consume up to 40% of their body weight in worms daily while breeding. Other worm-eating thrushes include the Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Veery, and Wood Thrush.

Thrushes use a variety of techniques while foraging, including probing soil, leaf-pulling, and observant waiting. Their versatile feeding habits allow them to switch prey if worms become scarce. But during the nesting season when demand is high, earthworms remain an essential part of the diet for most thrushes.


Crows are highly intelligent birds known for their curiosity, playfulness, and ability to solve problems. They are omnivorous generalists and eat a wide variety of plant and animal matter depending on what’s available. Earthworms are one food source that many crow species will readily consume.

American Crows forage for worms in lawns, golf courses, fields, and meadows by probing their sturdy beaks into the ground. If they spot a worm near the surface, they are quick to pluck it out and swallow it. Fish Crows, Northwestern Crows, and Hooded Crows also include worms in their diet regularly.

Earthworms are a good source of protein and fat for crows, especially in spring when demand for food is increased. Researchers estimate that earthworms may account for over 14% of breeding crows’ food intake during nesting season.


Larks are ground-dwelling songbirds found throughout Europe, Asia, Africa, and North America. They inhabit open country like grasslands, prairies, deserts, and agricultural areas. Several species including the Horned Lark, Skylark, and Shore Lark feed on earthworms frequently.

Larks forage while walking on the ground, using their bills to probe into soil and turn over vegetation. Earthworms that get exposed are quickly snatched up. Worms can comprise 35-60% of larks’ diets at certain times of year. They are an essential source of protein and fat for fueling breeding larks.

The availability of earthworms may even influence nest site selection and reproductive timing in larks. When worms emerge closer to the surface during wet, mild conditions, lark populations can benefit and produce more offspring.


Grackles are noisy, social blackbirds that often gather in large flocks. Common Grackles and Boat-tailed Grackles are two North American species that incorporate earthworms into their diets. They use their long bills to probe lawns, fields, and soft soils searching for worms to pull out.

Grackles exhibit opportunistic feeding behavior and adjust their diets based on seasonal food availability. Earthworms typically make up a greater proportion of grackles’ diets during spring and summer when they are readily available near the surface while breeding.

Researchers have estimated that up to 35% of Common Grackles’ diets may consist of earthworms during peak worm availability. The abundance of worms at this time provides an important protein source for rearing young.


Chickadees are small songbirds in the tit family found throughout North America. Species like the familiar Black-capped Chickadee have a varied omnivorous diet. In addition to seeds and insects, chickadees frequently consume earthworms which provide a rich source of protein and fat.

Chickadees forage in trees and shrubs but will also explore the ground for worms when available. Researchers have discovered that chickadees have excellent spatial memory and recall locations where they found worms previously.

Their small size limits the amount of worms they can consume at one time, but chickadees are persistent and will return to productive feeding spots often to gain the benefits of this nutritious food source.

How Birds Catch and Eat Worms

Visual and Auditory Cues

Birds rely heavily on their senses of sight and hearing to locate worms above and below the ground. Their excellent vision allows them to spot worms moving on the surface, especially after rain brings them up.

Many birds like robins will tilt their heads to position one eye looking down towards the ground, maximizing their worm-spotting ability. The slightest vibration or movement is quickly detected. Auditory cues are also important.

Birds can hear worms moving underground and will cock their head to pinpoint the location. Some species like thrushes have a particularly acute sense of hearing.

Specialized Beak Designs

Different bird species have evolved specialized beak designs to help them effectively catch and extract worms. Long, tapered bills like those of sandpipers and curlews probe deep into the mud or soil. Robins and thrushes have shorter bills ideal for grabbing worms already exposed.

Shorebirds like avocets have long, upturned bills that scythe back and forth through wet sand. Woodcocks have very long, slender bills with a flexible tip that they can open and clamp down quickly when they detect a worm.

No matter the technique, having a bill morphology adapted for their preferred worm hunting method provides birds with an evolutionary advantage.

Digging Worms Out of Soil

While some birds like robins rely on visual cues and quick strikes to grab exposed worms, other species use their feet and bills to actively dig worms out from the soil or mud. Robins, starlings, grackles, and others will stamp their feet repeatedly in soft ground to mimic rainfall and bring earthworms to the surface.

Thrushes, chats, and shrikes dig by sweeping their bills from side to side through the dirt and leaf litter. Woodcocks have a specially adapted bill tip that acts like a hoe to loosen soil as they probe.

Even powerful diggers like towhees and sparrows will scratch backwards with their feet to clear areas and improve their access to worms and other hidden prey. Digging takes energy but allows birds to access a reliable source of nutrition.

Nutritional Value of Worms for Birds

High in Protein

Worms are an excellent source of high-quality protein for birds. Mealworms, for example, contain up to 25% protein by dry weight. This protein contains all the essential amino acids birds need to build strong muscles and feathers.

The protein in worms is highly digestible, meaning birds can efficiently absorb and utilize it for growth, reproduction, and energy.

Many bird species, especially nestlings and breeding hens, have high protein requirements. Providing worms is an easy way to supplement their intake of this critical nutrient. Just a few worms can significantly boost their daily protein consumption.

Wild birds innately seek out and feast on worms to fuel their demanding lifestyles.

Good Fat Source

In addition to protein, worms provide valuable fats and fatty acids for birds. Mealworms contain over 30% fat by dry weight. This fat is a concentrated energy source to help meet birds’ calorie needs. The omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids found in worms support skin, feather, and brain health in birds.

The naturally high fat content of worms makes them a perfect food for nestlings needing extra calories to grow and develop. Adult birds also benefit from the fat in worms during demanding life stages like migration or breeding.

Offering fat-rich worms aids egg production and helps ensure adequate energy reserves.

Essential Vitamins and Minerals

Worms contain a wide spectrum of micronutrients that are vital to avian health. Mealworms, for example, are excellent sources of vitamin A, B vitamins, iron, zinc, selenium, and more. These vitamins and minerals support vision, bone strength, enzyme function, immune health, and nerve conduction in birds.

The nutrient diversity of worms provides balanced nutrition for birds. Captive birds fed worm-only diets do not typically suffer micronutrient deficiencies thanks to their rich vitamin and mineral content.

Wild birds seek out worms to obtain these essential micronutrients that may be lacking in other food sources.

Interesting Facts About Worm-Eating Birds

Feed Their Young Worms

Many species of birds rely on worms to feed their chicks and ensure their young get the nutrition they need. Worms are an excellent source of protein and fat for baby birds, providing them with the energy needed to grow and develop.

Species like robins, thrushes, and blackbirds are well-known for harvesting worms to bring back to their nests when they have a brood to raise. The parents will spend countless hours hunting for worms to satisfy the seemingly bottomless stomachs of their chicks.

In fact, a pair of robins will feed their chicks over 14 feet of earthworms each day – now that’s a lot of worms!

Consume Weight in Worms Daily

When it comes to birds that eat worms, their appetite for the invertebrates is voracious! Many species are able to consume enormous quantities each day relative to their body size. For instance, a single robin can eat up to 14 grams of worms daily, which is equivalent to their entire body weight.

Smaller birds like chickadees and warblers may eat over half their weight in worms every day. Their high metabolism and energy needs drive them to hunt and devour as many worms as they can find. Earthworms provide a rich source of nutrients and are easy for the birds to digest.

Consuming such large quantities helps maintain their high activity levels and powers their busy lives.

Bird Species Weight of Worms Consumed Daily
Robin 14 grams (equal to body weight)
Chickadee Up to 4 grams (over half body weight)
Warblers Up to 3 grams (over half body weight)

Some Migrate to Follow Worms

Not only do birds feast on worms daily, some species will even migrate to areas with plentiful worms! For example, American robins and yellow-rumped warblers will migrate north in the spring to take advantage of newly emerged earthworms.

Their migration follows closely behind the thawing of the soil as temperatures warm. This ensures a bountiful supply of their favorite food. Meanwhile, species like Eastern meadowlarks move south for the winter to areas where earthworms remain closer to the surface and accessible.

By migrating, these birds are able to find the habitat with the best worm resources. Their movements give a whole new meaning to the early bird gets the worm!


Worms are an essential food source for many common backyard birds and songbirds. Earthworms and other worms provide quality nutrition and protein for adult and baby birds alike. Understanding why birds eat worms and which species consume them can help bird enthusiasts appreciate this important dynamic between birds and their prey.

Certain bird species like robins and thrushes have evolved specialized adaptations to find and consume worms. Watching birds hunt for worms reveals important aspects of their natural behaviors and feeding strategies.

Although worms may seem like a lowly food source to us, they sustain a wide variety of birds around the world.

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