Bears, including polar, black, and grizzly bears, can eat a variety of bird species, such as geese, ducks, chicken, and grouse. They will also eat bird eggs and birdseed.
Generally, bears will eat anything (plant or animal) that they have the opportunity to consume. While they would prefer to hunt larger animals like deer and seals, they also consume birds and bird eggs whenever they can.
When they consume birds, it will often be through raiding nests and eating eggs or chicks that cannot escape. By contrast, healthy adult birds can usually escape a bear attack, and therefore birds remain only a small part of the bear’s diet.
Do Bears Eat Birds?
The primary way of assessing a bear’s diet is to examine its scat. Scat analyses have shown that birds are a part of bears’ diets but are not the primary source of food.
Most brown and black bears will primarily consume ungulates (such as deer and moose). After this, terrestrial plants, roots and berries are commonly found in scat.
“Remains of birds tend to be found in between 4% and 25% of a bear’s scat.” – FaunaFacts.com
Remains of birds tend to be found in between 4% and 25% of a bear’s scat, depending on the time of year and region of the scat analysis. One study found that bears in Scandinavia are more likely to have bird remains in their scat in Autumn while another Norwegian study found them more commonly in bear scat in Summer.
Bears will, generally, eat anything – from the food left in your bin through to berries or animal carcases they come across. So, frequency of consumption of birds is most likely a factor of how often they can come across bird meat.
Do Polar Bears Eat Birds?
While the main diet of polar bears is seals and fish, it appears they are increasingly resorting to eating bird as a result of climate change.
Climate change is changing the food sources for polar bears. Whereas once they had ample seals to consume, today the melting ice has forced them further onto land where they are more likely to raid bird nests.
Birds are not the best meal for polar bears because they do not provide much sustenance. Whereas one seal would be a sufficient meal for a polar bear, a bird is a mere snack.
Polar bears have been observed eating barnacle geese, common eiders, thick-billed murres, snow geese, and glaucous gulls. One study found that more than 90% of all bird nests in one area of Greenland being predated by polar bears, leading to concerns of catastrophic effects on bird populations.
It’s believed this is highly unusual for the bears, and in fact they’re going to extreme lengths, such as climbing cliffs into bird nesting places, to find a meal. This video, for example, shows a polar bear up a cliff hunting birds:
Do Bears Eat Eagles?
While bears would likely eat an eagle if they can, eagles are quick-witted predatory creatures that would be unlikely to allow a bear to come close enough to them to be hunted.
Furthermore, eagle nests are usually high and difficult to access, even for blackbirds who are excellent climbers.
Therefore, the only opportunity a bear would have to consume an eagle would be if the eagle were sick or trapped and unable to escape. Likely, if an eagle nest were accessible, a bear would not hesitate to raid the nest for eggs.
Do Bears Eat Dead Birds?
Bears feed on dead birds, or other carrion meat, if they can’t find live animals to hunt.
Generally, bears avoid old carrion meat, but they will feast on fresh carrion meat that they find.
It is likely that most of the bird remnants found in bear faeces are from dead or young birds that were too vulnerable to escape.
Similarly, if they’re very hungry, bears will also feed on the meat of other dead bears, dead cubs, dead wolves, and dead bobcats.
Do Bears Eat Bird Eggs?
Bird eggs are a much more common food source for bears than birds themselves. This is, simply, because eggs don’t fly away!
Bears are excellent climbers and will very happily climb a tree to feast on the eggs and chicks in a nest.
In fact, polar bears who raid bird nests are an existential risk to many bird species in the arctic.
A 2010 study, for example, explored polar bears raiding barnacle geese nests in Greenland. It found that a single bear raided over 300 nests, eating 1200 eggs. That year, of 550 nesting barnacle geese, only 31 nests successfully led to hatchings.
This study shows that bears raiding nests and eating bird eggs can be a substantial risk to the longevity of bird colonies.
Do Bears Eat Birdseed?
Birds do eat birdseed. Many researchers discourage the placement of birdseed in locations where bears may have access.
In Florida, where there are about 4000 remaining black bears, the use of birdseed outside homes is shown to encourage bears to enter properties and cause conflicts between humans and bears.
With such a small remaining Florida bear population, and a growing human population, conflicts between bears and humans are a rising concern.
According to this report, bird feeders should be placed 10 feet off the ground and 4 feet from attachment points in order to secure them away from bears. Black bears are excellent climbers, so placement far from climbable locations is very important.
By keeping birdseed far from reach for birds, you can do your part in keeping bears away from homes.
All Our Articles About Bear Diets:
All bear species do eat birds, although they aren’t the primary food source for any bears. Generally, a bear will eat anything it can get access to.
A bear is more likely to get its paws on bird eggs and chicks than grown birds, simply because birds can fly away. The raiding of nests is therefore the biggest threat bears pose to birds. Bears are good climbers and can easily get access to many nests.
Lastly, birdseed attracts bears, and therefore, should be placed in locations where birds cannot access and away from your home. Keep in mind that bears will climb to get access to birdseed, so feeders should be well away from climbable locations.
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