Most people consider mosquitos a pest. Their bites leave itchy red bumps on the skin, they are vectors for diseases, and they spoil water sources when they lay their eggs in standing water. However, many birds feel differently. A mosquito provides a combination of fiber, protein, and carbohydrates that fuel a bird’s rapid metabolism. Depending on the bird’s size, it can eat hundreds of mosquitos per day and thousands in a season. This article takes a look at 15 North American birds that eat mosquitos. You’ll learn about where they live, their species name, and what they look like. Let’s get started.
15 Birds that Eat Mosquitos
1. American Robin
Scientific name: Turdus migratorius
The American robin might be the most recognizable bird in all of North America. It has been memorialized in songs, stories, and movies. While an image of this ground-foraging bird pulling a worm from the soil easily comes to mind, that doesn’t mean the robin doesn’t eat other invertebrates.
Mosquitos are part of the American robin’s diet. Low-flying mosquitos are more likely to be caught than others because the robin spends more time foraging on the ground than anywhere else. Robins live in the United States year-round and in Canada during the spring and summer.
2. Scarlet Tanager
Scientific name: Piranga olivacea
A male scarlet tanager flits like a flame amidst the green leaves of Eastern forests during the spring and summer. His mate is yellow-green, but they both are voracious insect eaters. Unlike thicket-adapted birds, scarlet tanagers prefer mature hardwood forests.
Both sexes hunt for insects by picking their way along branches. They look around, above, and under leaves and fly between trees in search of insects. Because mosquitos breed so prolifically, they usually make it onto the scarlet tanager’s menu.
3. White-eyed Vireo
Scientific name: Vireo griseus
The shrub-dwelling white-eyed vireo is a regular songster in the Southeast. It lives there during the spring and summer but migrates to Central America and the Caribbean in the winter. Some populations live year-round in Florida, the Gulf Coast, and swampy parts of Texas.
White-eyed vireos hunt by hopping through bushes and thickets in search of insects hiding amongst the leaves. In the Southeast, where water is abundant, there are plenty of opportunities for these songbirds to run into mosquitos.
4. House Wren
Scientific name: Troglodytes aedon
House wrens are common backyard birds across much of the country during the spring and summer months. These little wrens are insect specialists, and you’ll see them zipping all over the yard from shrub to shrub and grabbing what it can find. Spiders, caterpillars, flies, beetles and mosquitoes, to name a few, are all on the menu. If you put up a birdhouse you have a good chance of attracting them, and you can watch them dart to and fro bringing mouthful’s of insects back to their hungry babies.
5. European Starling
Scientific name: Sturnus vulgaris
While the European starling isn’t native to North America, it is an abundant and semi-native bird. A small flock was introduced in the 1800’s and today there are about 200 million European starlings in the United States. Despite their reputation as nuisance birds, European starlings do their part to keep insect populations at a minimum. They will eat all sorts of food from berries to grains, but when they have the opportunity they will focus on insects including mosquitoes.
6. Purple Martin
Scientific name: Progne subis
If you live in the United States, birdhouses built for purple martins are often a common sight. They come in various shapes and sizes, from apartment-style complexes to a network of hollow gourds suspended in a wagon-wheel shape. You may be surprised to learn houses for purple martins are more than just decoration! They are old-fashioned pest control.
Purple martins are some of the most efficient mosquito-eating insectivores. They eat both adult mosquitos and aquatic larvae. Farmers hang up purple martin houses in order to keep the populations of nuisance bugs down.
Purple martins also add song, visual interest, and drama to any backyard. They live in colonies year-round.
7. Black-capped Chickadee
Scientific name: Poecile atricapillus
You wouldn’t guess that this tiny songbird – it measures just 5” long – can hunt! In fact, it can, and it is a pretty tenacious predator. If you live in the northern or eastern United States, you’ve probably heard the black-capped chickadee’s repetitive call. It sounds like its name: “chick-a-dee-dee-dee.”
Chickadees are common visitors at bird feeders, but they also eat insects. Live food is a larger percentage of their diet in the spring and summer. Once it cools off, they eat more seeds.
8. Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Scientific name: Archilochus colubris
Yes, hummingbirds will eat mosquitos. Hummingbirds are usually known for their penchant for nectar, which makes up a lot of their diet. However, mosquitos, gnats and other small, soft-bodied flying insects are also part of their normal diet. Mother hummingbirds even catch insects to bring them back to the nest for their young. The young benefit from the higher protein minerals in the insects.
9. Common Nighthawk
Scientific name: Chordeiles minor
The common nighthawk is a crepuscular bird, meaning it is most active at dawn and dusk. It sets out to hunt for flying insects just as the sun begins to set. They are some of the most well-camouflaged birds and blend into environments ranging from forests to seashores to arid mountain landscapes.
Look for common nighthawks in the United States during the spring and the summer. It’s easiest to see them silhouetted against the sky. Listen for their call, too. It sounds like a buzz: “peent.” They have large mouths to catch mosquitoes and other insects since they eat while flying.
10. Northern Cardinal
Scientific name: Cardinalis cardinalis
The Northern cardinal is a bird of thickets and underbrush, environments where mosquitos are commonly found. This bird is native to most of the eastern United States, while some populations inhabit Texas, the Great Plains, and a small part of the Southwest.
Cardinals usually eat seeds – for evidence, check out their strong bills – but they will go after insects to feed their young and supplement their own diets.
11. Eastern Bluebird
Scientific name: Sialia sialis
Eastern bluebirds are the indigo jewels of the eastern United States! These insect-eating birds are great fun for people who want to encourage nesting in their backyards. They respond well to nest boxes and they are accustomed to open spaces like meadows and grasslands, so your open lawn won’t make them feel exposed.
Mosquitos are a nutritious part of the Eastern bluebird’s diet. To catch them, they watch carefully from a perch like a fence post or telephone line. If they see an insect on or near the ground, they dart down to catch it.
12. Yellow Warbler
Scientific name:Setophaga petechia
The cheerful yellow warbler is a small songbird with bright yellow plumage, and males have distinct red streaks on their chest. Found across much of North America during the spring and summer, these little explorers make their homes in woodlands, gardens, and wetlands — tending to stick to the edges. Like most warblers they are insect eaters and search foliage for caterpillars, beetles and other bugs to snatch up. However they will also catch passing flying insects, like mosquitoes, by leaving their perch for a short flight.
13. Red-eyed Vireos
Scientific name: Vireo olivaceus
Red-eyed vireos are insectivorous songbirds that live throughout most of southern Canada and the United States, except for the Southwest and most of the Pacific Coast. During the warm months, they hunt for mosquitos and other insects along the branches and leaves of trees. When it gets cold, they migrate south to central South America.
You’re unlikely to spot them in forest-free zones. They’re specifically adapted to arboreal environments. Like purple martins, they eat both the adult mosquito and the larvae. This makes them a great bird to try to attract to your area. If you have abundant forest and foliage, they may visit.
14. Eastern Phoebe
Scientific name: Sayornis phoebe
The delicate Eastern phoebe is well-adapted to the presence of humans and the practice of catching insects. They catch mosquitos while on-the-wing, meaning that they are usually flying when they snatch mosquitoes in their beak. They are most often seen on the edges of forests, where they can sally between branches and bushes to grab insects.
Look for an Eastern phoebe year-round in the Southeast. It also lives in the Eastern United States during the spring and summer. Its call sounds like a raspy “fee-bee,” just like its name.
15. Barn Swallow
Scientific name: Hirundo rustica
The barn swallow is another songbird that keeps mosquitos at bay. People commonly provide birdhouses or semi-sheltered structures, like barns, for these birds. They can eat 1 mosquito per minute and usually live in large groups, so they have a significant impact on the insect population in their habitat areas.
Barn swallows are some of the fastest fliers in the world. If you have the opportunity to watch one, you’ll notice that it is a dark blue color with a rusty face. They spend the warm months throughout most of North America, then migrate into Central America for the winter.