Ask any birder what birds eat and you’ll hear “seeds, fruits, and insects.” But during reproduction, arguably the most important weeks of a bird’s life, 96% of North American terrestrial birds eat insects and other arthropods. Why? Because insects are great food — high in protein and rich in high-energy fats.

But which insects, specifically, are they eating? Surprisingly, we don’t really know. The best studies so far only classify orders of insects. But such broad categories assume that all caterpillars, for instance, are equally valuable to particular birds species.

So… what do birds really eat? And what do they feed their nestlings? Entomology & Wildlife Ecology-focused graduate student Ashley Kennedy set up cameras on 40 bluebird nest boxes in Delaware to find out. The resulting video, produced with Justin Bredlau, narrated by Jessica Bray, and conducted in Doug Tallamy’s Lab at the University of Delaware, is one of the five finalists in the Entomological Society of America‘s 2018 YouTube Your Entomology Contest. And the answer?

Caterpillars were identified as the dominant prey group, followed by orthopterans and spiders. Improving our understanding of bluebird diet is vital for conservation efforts.

Help Kennedy and her colleagues with the science! Submit your photos of birds with insects in their beaks at whatdobirdseat.com.

Next, watch more food chain videos and these videos of baby birds: A mother blackbird feeds brand new baby birds in their nest, up close with a Carolina Wren as it feeds its nesting baby birds, hummingbird hatchlings in their nest with mother Rosie, and how do baby flamingos become pink?

via Entomology Today.

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