What Are Birds Eating In The Grass? When To Worry and When Not To?

Have you been seeing birds pecking in your grass? Have you been wondering “what are birds eating in my grass”?

They are eating worms, insects, and a host of other tasty morsels that live in your yard. The one thing hopefully they are not eating though is grubs. If they are, you have a problem.

And the birds are not the problem, the grubs are.

A healthy lawn is a buffet if you’re a bird. In the early morning or at dusk, birds feed on worms that surface with the fading sun.

During the day, insects, seeds, and a host of other delicious bird food can all be found on your ordinary lawn.

What Are Birds Eating In My Grass

What if Birds Are Digging up My Lawn?

If only a few birds are digging here and there, it’s natural and you shouldn’t worry.

They are naturally aerating your lawn and eating things you probably don’t want on your lawn in the first place.

But if there are a lot of birds and maybe even a few mammals, and they are doing actual damage, this signals that there is most likely a problem.

Usually, if birds are actually “digging” in your yard it’s because they are searching for lawn grubs.

What are Lawn Grubs?

Grubs are destructive critters that can live just under the grass for years and eat the root system of even the healthiest lawns.

The most common destructive grubs in lawns are Japanese beetles and June Bug larvae. They are small either white or yellow worms that look similar to a fatter maggot.

They can be very destructive to a lawn and once there’s an infestation it’s extremely difficult to get them under control again.

By the way, grubs and maggots make for a great source of food for birds.

Garden Grub
Picture of a common Garden Grub

How Do I Know If I Have Lawn Grubs?

Now that we know that birds are not the problem but grubs are, let us find out if you have grubs on your lawn. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • How healthy is your lawn?
  • Are there dead patches?
  • Have you tried seeding your lawn and it’s not taking?

If the answer to any of these is yes, you can do a simple test to find out if you have grubs on your lawn.

One of the easiest ways to tell if this is happening on your lawn is to take a kitchen knife and cut a foot square of your lawn. Then pull up the grass.

If it comes up easily it can mean the grubs are chowing down on all your roots. Dig into the earth a bit and see if you can spot them in the dirt somewhere.

If the problem is severe, you may see as many as five or six grubs right under the one-foot square of grass you pulled up.

If this is the case, you’ll need to take immediate action.

What Are Birds Eating In My Grass

Natural Grub Control

Try to never use pesticides or other harmful chemicals on your lawn! These chemicals poison everything including birds, mammals, the good worms, and even people as these chemicals seep into the water table.

The best way to get rid of grubs naturally is to take a two-prong approach of getting rid of the actual grubs and deterring the beetles that lay their eggs in the first place.

Getting Rid of the Grubs

First, you want to fight grubs with worms. But not any old worm, you need Nematodes.

These are easily obtainable larvae you can get at most lawn care places that eat grubs with no ill effects on your lawn or the environment.

Simply spread the larvae all over your lawn and let nature take its course.

The next thing you do is spread castor oil granules throughout your lawn. Not the oil!

And lastly use milky spore to help kill the white Japanese Beetle grubs which are the most common lawn killers.

A great side effect of this treatment is although you’ll need to apply the milky spores to your lawn a couple of times a year for a few years, once you go through the process, these spores will continue to keep your lawn grub-free for up to 15 years.

These controls take time, at least a year, but are the safest ways to control a grub problem and are highly recommended over chemicals.

What Are Birds Eating In My Grass

Getting Rid of the Beetles

Now that we have the grub problem solved, we need to keep the beetles that are breeding the grubs off our lawns or at least in check.

The easiest and least evasive way to do this is with Neem Oil.

Neem oil is just leaves from the Neem tree soaked in water for a few weeks. It’s totally natural and won’t harm your lawn or anything living in it.

Just spray where you see any beetles, often on larger plants, flowers, and gardens. Keep applying every week or so until you don’t see any more beetles.

You’ll need to keep this regimen up every year to keep the beetles away.

What Birds Eat Grubs?

Starlings, crows, sparrows, grackles, and robins plus a host of other birds all love grubs and anything else they can dig up on your lawn.

They are also a natural way to keep not just grubs, but many different types of pests and small critters from taking over your lawn.

Why Do Birds Like Freshly Cut Grass?

Birds love freshly mowed lawns because when you mow your lawn you’re disturbing all of the insects that live in the grass.

They are all flying or buzzing around and are easily seen and captured by a hungry bird.

In addition, you’ve now just taken away all the grass and weeds that were covering up anything living on top or just beneath the soil like earthworms or grubs, and they’re now a lot easier for the bird to see and catch.

So now the birds only need to work half as hard to get just as much food as they’d need to work on a lawn that hasn’t been mowed. It’s a win-win for the birds and your lawn.

In fact, a recent study on Starlings showed that when these birds feasted on newly mowed lawns, they were able to capture more food and exert less energy in doing so than non-mowed ones.

Yet at the same time, they didn’t spend more time on the freshly cut grass than on other neighboring grass. You can find this study here.

What Are Birds Eating In My Grass

Why Do Birds Destroy Lawns?

It’s super difficult for birds to actually destroy a lawn. In fact, some of the “damage” caused by birds is beneficial to your lawn.

It helps bring oxygen to the grass’ roots as well as loosen the soil, also called aerating.

Most often if there are a lot of birds constantly digging up your grass it’s because somewhere you have a problem on your lawn, and it’s not the birds.

The birds are just looking for food. And if they’re finding enough to invite all their friends, it’s time for you to do some digging and find the root of the problem (pun not intended).

Wrap up

If you see birds eating something in your grass, don’t be worried the birds are not destroying your lawn.

As I’ve explained above, the most likely cause is grubs or some kind of infestation of larvae or other insects.

Inspect your lawn closely to see what the true problem is. Then fight that problem, not the hungry birds helping you out.

Gordon Ramel

Gordon is an ecologist with two degrees from Exeter University. He's also a teacher, a poet and the owner of 1,152 books. Oh - and he wrote this website.

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