Birds come in all shapes and sizes and are found on every continent of the planet.
With this large variety of sizes and habitats, it should be no surprise that birds’ diets vary equally, but do birds indulge in the slimy meal of slugs and snails?
It is common to find birds feeding on slugs and snails around the garden and their natural habitat. Although not all birds eat slugs, there is a large number that does.
Throughout this article, we are going to discuss the importance of slugs in a bird’s diet, which birds eat slugs and snails, and answer some further questions you may have.
Do Birds Eat Slugs?
To most animals (including humans) slugs are a somewhat unappealing meal.
With their slimy exterior and a high chance of harmful parasites, humans and other mammals tend to stay away.
Although slugs aren’t poisonous, they do contain potentially dangerous parasites, and when ingested can lead to some complications and in extreme cases, death.
This is also true for our pets such as dogs and cats, however, when it comes to birds, slugs play an important role in many of their diets.
Most larger birds will feed on smaller slugs and snails when they are available, provided the slug is small enough to be held in their beak and swallowed.
Birds such as robins, chickens, and ducks regularly feed on slugs and snails, however, slugs don’t hold a large number of nutrients, which doesn’t make them a favorite.
Why Do Birds Eat Slugs?
Birds eat slugs and snails to keep up with their incredibly fast metabolism. As birds burn through large amounts of energy each second, they need to constantly remain fueled.
Although slugs aren’t particularly nutritional, they do provide some essential protein, fats, and carbohydrates that birds can benefit from.
On average, slugs and snails hold the following nutritional values:
For 4-ounces of slug/ snail (approximately 113 grams)
The above values are estimations and will differ from slug to slug, as well as through species, and habitat.
That said, slugs and snails also provide vitamins and minerals such as iron, calcium, and Vitamin A, among other minerals in smaller amounts.
Which Birds Eat Slugs?
As mentioned above, there’s a large number of birds that eat slugs and snails, which makes it near impossible to list them all.
That said, the following are some birds that can be found in your garden or neighborhood that enjoy a slimy slug snack.
Thrushes are small to medium-sized birds that make their homes in wooded areas where they feed on the ground.
Thrushes are primarily insectivorous (meaning their main diet is insects), however, they are often spotted feeding on fruit such as small berries, worms, slugs, and land snails.
A typical example of the “early bird” robins are a common sight along lawns.
These smallish birds can often be observed pulling earthworms from the ground, usually in large numbers during the spring and summer months.
During these times they can also be seen consuming slugs, snails, as well as insects.
Robins eat a large variety of fruits and nuts, as well as occasionally recorded eating shrews, small snakes, and aquatic insects.
Starlings are native to Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, and the tropical pacific islands.
They have been introduced to North America, Hawaii, and New Zealand, where they are considered to be an invasive species.
Starlings usually feed on insects, fruits, seeds, and worms. That said, starlings are known to be opportunistic feeders, and will eat most things they can find, including slugs.
A member of the Corvidae family, Jays are divided into two categories, American Jays and Old World lineage.
Of these, perhaps one of the more commonly known is the Blue Jay, which is native to eastern North America.
Blue-Jays base their diets on vegetable matter, however, they are omnivorous and will eat a variety of insects, spiders, as well as slugs, snails, and frogs.
Magpies, another member of the Corvidae family, are known to be incredibly intelligent, with the Eurasian magpie ranked among the world’s most intelligent creatures.
Magpies are one of the few non-mammal species that are able to recognize themselves in a mirror, suggesting a higher state of self-awareness and consciousness.
Magpies are well known for their beautiful songs as well as for being lucky and have been kept as caged birds in the past.
As far as food goes, magpies are omnivorous, feeding on grassland invertebrates, seeds, nuts, fruits, worms, slugs, spiders, snails, and household scraps.
These birds aren’t particularly picky when it comes to food, which means almost anything small enough could be a potential snack.
Owls have always seemed to have a mysterious sense about them, maybe it’s because of their huge eyes, or perhaps their nocturnal nature and odd sleeping patterns.
Whatever it is, owls are known to be great hunters and top-ranked birds of prey.
Owls will feed invertebrates, which differ according to location, size of the owl, and the size of the prey.
Larger owls will feed on mice, rats, rabbits, fish, and other birds, while smaller owls favor insects, spiders, snails, crabs, slugs, and other smaller creatures.
That said, larger owls will feed on smaller invertebrates when the opportunity arises, or when in need of food.
How Do Birds Eat Slugs?
A bird’s beak will tell you a lot about its diet (or at least about its potential diet).
A bird’s beak is specifically designed for the functions of its life.
For example, some birds drill through wood, others drink nectar, some catch large animals and others feed on seeds and worms.
For a bird to eat slugs, its beak will need to have certain characteristics.
Birds with straight thin beaks are best at catching insects and worms, as it gives them pinpoint accuracy and the ability to dig into the soil.
These birds are also often feeding on slugs and snails.
That said, birds with rounded bills or curved beaks face no problem when snacking on slugs, providing the slug is large enough to grasp.
Do Slugs Eat Birds?
By now it is well established that a large number of birds eat both slugs and snails, but it may surprise you that this is not a one-way meal.
Although it’s rare and remains to be an unexplained phenomenon, there have been recordings of slugs feeding on the hatchlings of small passerine birds in Europe.
These birds make their nests on the ground which is easily accessible to slugs.
Although it has not been recorded with high frequency, a variety of slugs have been seen feeding on young birds, although it is most common among larger slug species.
Large slugs are able to bite through the skulls of hatchlings, or simply bite and feed on their flesh.
This can lead to infection or other ailments that prevent the young bird from thriving.
Although injuries caused by slugs don’t always lead to death, the presence of the slug could be enough to lower the chick’s body temperature to dangerous levels.
Taking note of all of this, slugs don’t pose a real threat to birds in most cases, and the impact of them eating hatchlings in Europe is yet to be discovered.