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Mockingbirds Eat? Their Diverse Diet: Seeds, Insects & Backyard Tips (2024)

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what do mockingbirds eatYou’re in for a treat, bird enthusiast! Mockingbirds are skilled foragers with an omnivorous diet that varies by season.

In winter, they’ll devour 85-90% fruits and berries, supplemented by insects and arthropods.

Come summer, their menu flips to 85% insects and caterpillars, with seeds and grains rounding it out.

These aerial acrobats hunt by plucking bugs mid-air or even snapping up small lizards.

To attract them, offer mealworms and suet mixes in appropriate feeders near shrubs.

Avoid moldy foods and toxic plants like rhododendrons.

Want to discover more about these versatile avian entertainers?

Key Takeaways

  • These winged gourmands have an omnivorous appetite that shifts with the seasons. In winter, they’ll devour a smorgasbord of juicy fruits and berries, but come summer, their menu flips to an insect-filled extravaganza, snatching caterpillars and bugs mid-air like aerial acrobats!
  • To lure these feathered entertainers to your backyard stage, roll out the red carpet with mealworm delicacies and suet buffets. Position your feeders near some shrubby curtains for their safety and enjoyment as they dine al fresco.
  • While mockingbirds relish a varied menu, it’s curtains for moldy or spoiled foods, which could leave them feeling under the weather. Steer clear of toxic plants too, unless you want these crooners to hit a sour note!
  • Get ready for an avian circus as you observe their hunting prowess! From plucking insects out of thin air to the occasional small lizard chase, these birds are true masters of their aerial domain. Their seasonal diet changes are a choreographed dance, fueling their boundless energy and boisterous song repertoires.

What Do Mockingbirds Eat?

Mockingbirds eat a diverse diet that includes insects, berries, seeds, and even small lizards. In winter, they primarily consume fruits and berries, while in summer, they feast on insects, caterpillars, and grains.

Mockingbird Diet Overview

Mockingbird Diet Overview
Mockingbirds are omnivorous, meaning their diet consists of both plant and animal-based foods.

As skilled hunters, they feast on insects during the breeding season. However, they change to more fruit and seeds in winter.

Their diverse diet showcases seasonal variations—predominantly insects in summer, shifting to fruits and berries when colder temperatures arrive.

With impressive hunting techniques like aerial maneuvers and ground foraging, mockingbirds thrive on a varied menu of insects, seeds, and fruit.

Winter Diet

Winter Diet
In the winter months, mockingbirds turn to a diet consisting primarily of fruits and berries, which make up around 85-90% of their intake. However, they still opportunistically hunt for insects and other small arthropods, comprising the remaining 10-15% of their winter diet.

Fruits and Berries

You’ll notice mockingbirds flocking to fruit and berry sources during winter. Persimmons, sumac, holly, and magnolia are favorites. As summer fades, their diet shifts from insects to more readily available fruits. Berries provide essential nutrients and energy when insect populations dwindle. Consider supplementing with grape jelly or sliced grapes and flowers to attract these feathery neighbors.

Insects and Arthropods

During winter, insects and arthropods still make up a small but important part of the mockingbird’s diet.

While fruit becomes their primary food source, they’ll forage the ground and trees for any available invertebrates like insect eggs, mealworms, and arthropods.

This dietary diversity keeps them healthy during the lean months.

With persistence, you may spot mockingbirds foraging for these protein-rich morsels around your yard or garden.

Summer Diet

Summer Diet
During the summer months, mockingbirds primarily feast on insects and caterpillars, with their diet consisting of up to 85% animal-based foods. Seeds and grains also make up a smaller portion of their warm weather diet, helping to supplement the abundant insect supply.

Insects and Caterpillars

During summer, mockingbirds’ diet is dominated by insects and caterpillars – around 85%! They’re expert aerial hunters, snatching bugs mid-flight with impressive agility. Caterpillars are a favorite, providing important protein for these omnivorous songbirds. Their varied insect intake depends on what’s available in their habitat. In your backyard, you’ll see them foraging for beetles, moths, and other creepy-crawlies among trees and shrubs.

Seeds and Grains

In summer, mockingbirds’ diet expands to include nutrient-rich seeds and grains. Their appetite for these plant foods peaks, complementing the insects they so voraciously consume. You’ll often find them foraging for:

  1. Millet
  2. Sunflower seeds
  3. Cracked corn
  4. Milo

Offer a diverse seed mix in your backyard feeders to cater to their varied tastes. Mockingbirds particularly relish white millet, favoring its small, easy-to-digest seeds during the warmer months.

Baby Mockingbird Diet

Baby Mockingbird Diet
You’ll want to provide your nestling mockingbirds with a diet rich in soft-bodied insects and larvae to fuel their growth.

Both parents take turns hunting and feeding the babies, primarily beetle larvae and caterpillars.

As they develop, you can diversify their meals with suet, mealworms, and seeds.

Never offer potential toxins like pesticide-laced bugs or feed hummingbirds, snakes, or other birds to baby mockingbirds.

Their nutritional needs change rapidly, so monitor their development closely.

Feeding Habits

Feeding Habits
Mockingbirds are skilled foragers, spending significant time on the ground searching for insects, seeds, and other food sources. From trees and bushes, they hunt for aerial insects, gleaning nutritious caterpillars and invertebrates to supplement their diverse diet.

Ground Foraging

You’ll often find mockingbirds foraging on the ground, using their slender beaks to probe the soil for insects, grubs, and worms.

Their ground foraging habits are influenced by seed availability and habitat conditions.

Mockingbirds aggressively defend their territories, so an abundance of fallen seeds and insects in your yard may attract these feisty birds for ground foraging.

However, they’re just as skilled at hunting insects from trees and bushes.

Tree and Bush Foraging

While adept ground foragers, mockingbirds also frequent trees and bushes.

You’ll find them perched on branches, surveying surroundings for insects, fruits, and seeds.

Their foraging techniques adapt to habitat preferences, snatching prey mid-air or plucking berries.

Mockingbirds defend nesting territories fiercely, so expect feisty behavior if foraging near an active nest.

A diverse diet keeps these avian entertainers energized for their boisterous song repertoires.

Favorite Foods

Favorite Foods
You can entice mockingbirds to your backyard by offering their favorite treats – mealworms and suet mixes. These protein-rich foods provide essential nutrition, especially during the breeding season when they primarily consume insects and arthropods.


You can purchase mealworms, a favorite mockingbird treat, from most pet stores or online retailers. Here are three easy tips for feeding mealworms:

  1. Sprinkle live mealworms on a tray feeder or ground.
  2. Mix dried mealworms into suet or seed mixes.
  3. Soak dried mealworms in water to rehydrate before serving.

Mealworms provide essential protein for mockingbirds, especially during breeding season. Store any extra mealworms refrigerated for freshness.

Suet and Seed Mixes

Looking to attract mockingbirds?

Offer suet feeders and seed mixes perfect for their diverse appetites.

Suet cakes loaded with nutrient-rich ingredients like rendered beef fat, nuts, and dried fruits provide necessary energy.

Seed feeders stocked with sunflower, millet, and nyjer supply protein and essential fats.

Position feeders near foraging zones like shrubs and trees for good access.

With the right offerings, mockingbirds will frequent your backyard, delighting with spirited songs.

Supplemental Feeding

Supplemental Feeding
You can supplement a mockingbird’s natural diet by providing appropriate bird feeders and bird feeding systems. The EcoTough 9" x 9" Tray Bird Feeder, EcoTough Tail Prop Suet Feeder, and APS Basic Setup – Hanging are suitable options for offering mealworms, suet, and seed mixes.

Bird Feeders

You can attract mockingbirds to your backyard with well-designed bird feeders. Place feeders near shrubs or trees for safety, and clean them regularly. Tray or suet feeders work well, letting mockingbirds hop around comfortably. Baffles and weight-sensitive perches discourage squirrels and large birds. With proper placement and maintenance, quality feeders provide a reliable food source mockingbirds adore.

Bird Feeding Systems

For supplemental feeding, you can provide mockingbirds with a bird feeding system. The APS Basic Setup is great for hanging feeders filled with their favorite mealworms, suet, or seed mixes. Guarantee frequent refilling, especially during nesting seasons when nestling diets demand higher feeding frequencies. Monitor for predators and clean regularly for the most effective backyard bird feeding.

Foods to Avoid

Foods to Avoid
When supplementing a mockingbird’s diet, it’s imperative to avoid moldy or spoiled foods, as they can harbor harmful bacteria and toxins. You should also steer clear of toxic plants and areas treated with pesticides, which can be detrimental to these birds’ health.

Moldy or Spoiled Foods

You’ll want to avoid moldy or spoiled foods when feeding mockingbirds. These can make birds very sick:

  • Moldy bread or grains
  • Rotten fruits or veggies
  • Spoiled meat or insects

Always provide fresh, dry foods free from mold, rot, or slime. If it smells funky or looks discolored, toss it out to keep your feathered friends healthy and safe.

Toxic Plants and Pesticides

In addition to moldy or spoiled foods, you’ll want to avoid toxic plants and pesticides when feeding mockingbirds. These birds are susceptible to poisoning from certain plants and chemicals, which can cause serious harm or even death. Steer clear of pesticide-treated areas and remove any toxic plants from your yard to keep these feathered friends safe.

Toxic Plants Effects
Rhododendrons Vomiting, diarrhea
Azaleas Coma, death
Oleander Extremely poisonous
Daffodils Vomiting, lethargy
Lily of the Valley Heart issues

Hunting Techniques

Hunting Techniques
Mockingbirds are skilled aerial hunters, adeptly plucking insects from the air with precise movements. Additionally, they occasionally pursue and capture small lizards, showcasing their adaptability in securing diverse prey.

Aerial Insect Hunting

You’ll be amazed at mockingbirds’ aerial foraging skills! They expertly hunt insects mid-flight with incredible wing dexterity, reflecting their insectivorous diet. Watch as they swoop and dive, gracefully capturing their prey in three nimble maneuvers:

  1. Locate insect with razor-sharp vision
  2. Rapidly adjust trajectory with agile wings
  3. Snap up the hapless bug with a precise strike

This aerial insect hunting highlights their food preferences and seasonal adaptations for an abundant summer feast.

Small Lizard Hunting

You may occasionally spot mockingbirds hunting small lizards too.

While not a staple, they’ll seize opportunities for this protein-rich prey.

Their techniques involve perching, stalking, then pouncing swiftly on unsuspecting lizards basking nearby.

Success depends on stealth and speed.

This lizard hunting typically occurs around gardens, rocks, and other sun-exposed areas where lizards frequent.

However, it comprises a minor part of their diet compared to insects and fruits.

Seasonal Variations

Seasonal Variations
You’ll notice seasonal variations in mockingbirds’ diets during spring and fall migrations, as well as during the breeding season. Their food preferences shift to accommodate the increased energy demands of travel and raising young, with a greater emphasis on protein-rich insects and nutrient-dense foods.

Spring and Fall Migrations

You’ll notice mockingbirds change their behavior during spring and fall migrations. They fuel up on fatty insects and fruits, storing fat reserves for long flights. Mockingbirds carefully select stopover sites with dense vegetation and berries. Weather impacts migration timing—strong headwinds delay journeys, while tailwinds expedite travels. Understanding their migration patterns and habitat use during transience helps provide ideal resources.

Breeding Season Changes

As breeding season approaches, you’ll notice a significant dietary shift. Mockingbirds prioritize protein-rich insects and caterpillars to fuel nestling growth, with both parents tirelessly foraging on the ground and in foliage. Insect availability peaks during this time, but they’ll still snack on fruit. Once the nestlings fledge, the reliance on insects wanes as fruits become their preferred fare again.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What do mockingbirds eat in winter?

Like voyagers enduring winter’s chill, mockingbirds primarily feast on fruits, their diet a mere 10-15% animal-based during this frosty season. For the Northern mockingbird, however, insects remain an 85% staple even amidst snow’s embrace.

Do mockingbirds eat lizards?

Yes, mockingbirds will occasionally hunt and consume small lizards. While insects, fruits, and seeds make up their primary diet, these opportunistic birds aren’t above catching a lizard when the opportunity presents itself.

What do Baby mockingbirds eat?

Let’s explore the intriguing diet of baby mockingbirds. You’ll be astonished to discover that these nestlings predominantly consume soft, protein-rich arthropods and invertebrates such as caterpillars and beetle larvae, expertly delivered by their devoted parents.

What to feed mockingbirds?

Feed mockingbirds a varied diet of mealworms, suet, seeds, and fruit. In spring and summer, focus on insect larvae, worms, and live insects. For winter, offer suet and berries to supplement natural foraging.

Can mockingbirds eat cheese or other dairy products?

No, mockingbirds are omnivores that don’t consume dairy products like cheese. Their diet consists primarily of insects, fruits, and seeds. Providing cheese could disrupt their natural digestive system and lead to health issues, so it’s best to stick with appropriate mockingbird foods.

Do mockingbirds need access to water sources?

Even mockingbirds dream of an oasis! Yes, they absolutely need fresh water sources to survive and thrive, just like any desert wanderer seeking respite.

What plants are safe for mockingbirds to eat?

Mockingbirds enjoy various fruits like berries, grapes, and mulberries. Safe plant foods also include seeds from sunflowers, millet, and grains. Avoid feeding them toxic plants or moldy items.

How often should mockingbird feeders be cleaned?

Clean those mockingbird feeders every 2-3 days to prevent buildup of droppings, mold, and bacteria. A quick scrub with hot, soapy water does the trick for these avian gourmands.

Can mockingbirds become overweight from too much food?

Yes, mockingbirds can become overweight if provided excessive food, especially high-calorie items like suet or seed mixes. Moderate feeder use and ensuring a balanced, insect-heavy diet is essential for their health.


Like aerial performers, mockingbirds dazzle with their versatile diet.

From plucking insects mid-air to snapping up small lizards, their feeding habits demonstrate remarkable adaptability.

You’ll attract these avian acrobats by offering mealworms and suet mixes in suitable feeders near shrubs, while avoiding moldy foods and toxic plants.

Avatar for Mutasim Sweileh

Mutasim Sweileh

Mutasim Sweileh is a passionate bird enthusiast and author with a deep love for avian creatures. With years of experience studying and observing birds in their natural habitats, Mutasim has developed a profound understanding of their behavior, habitats, and conservation. Through his writings, Mutasim aims to inspire others to appreciate and protect the beautiful world of birds.