eastern yellow robin

16 Birds That Eat Japanese Beetles: Nature’s Pest Control

The Japanese beetle is a pest that feeds on many plants. It can cause a lot of damage to your garden. Luckily, birds are often seen eating them and other insects in the wild. Japanese beetles feed on over 300 different types of plants, including roses, fruit trees, corn, cucumbers, zucchini, and soybeans. 

If you see Japanese beetles in your garden or on your lawn, it is important to act quickly before they get out of control. Luckily, there are several birds that you can attract that will feed on these bugs.

Birds That Eat Japanese Beetles

Common Grackle

Common Grackle
Image by simardfrancois from Pixabay

Grackles have been seen feasting on Japanese Beetles in large numbers. This is good news for gardeners and homeowners who are struggling to fight the beetles that threaten their plants. In fact, grackles feed exclusively on insects such as these. They are more effective than any pesticide, and if you see them feeding in your yard, you know it’s safe from a beetle infestation!

  • Length: 11.0-13.8 in (28-35 cm)
  • Weight: 2.7-5.0 oz (75-143 g)
  • Wingspan: 13.8-18.1 in (35-46 cm)
  • Range: North America, Central America, South America, and into southern Canada.
  • Habitat: Woodlands, grasslands, wetlands, forests, and even deserts. 
  • Diet: Insects like beetles and caterpillars but also fruits or berries. 

Common Starling

Common Starling
Image by TheOtherKev from Pixabay

Common Starlings are the most widespread and common bird in North America. Many people think that these birds are just a nuisance, and it is good to get rid of them. However, in the past few years, many starlings have been observed feeding on Japanese beetles and larvae (grubs), and may be useful in controlling populations of this invasive species.​​​​​​​

  • Length: 8.1-9.1 in (20.5-23 cm)
  • Weight: 2.1-3.4 oz (60-96 g)
  • Wingspan: 11.8-15.7 in (30-40 cm)
  • Range: North America, Europe, Asia, and Africa. 
  • Habitat: Urban habitats and agricultural fields.
  • Diet: Seeds, berries some fruit and insects. 

Related Posts: How To Attract European Starlings To Your Yard?

Northern Cardinal

Northern Cardinal
Image by Frank Dilorenzo from Pixabay

The Northern cardinal is the North American bird species that is known for its vivid, brilliant red color. Northern Cardinals are the natural predators of Japanese Beetles. The beetles fly up to trees and other vegetation, where they are fed on by the cardinals. This helps keep down populations of these pesky insects.

  • Length: 7.9-9.1 in (20-23 cm)
  • Weight: 1.45-1.7 oz (41-48 g)
  • Wingspan: 9.8-12.4 in (25-31.5 cm)
  • Range: Eastern United States, Canada and Mexico.
  • Habitat: Deciduous forests, coniferous forests, mixed woodlands, prairies, chaparral areas (shrubs), savannas (grassland with scattered trees), semi-deserts or deserts with scrubby vegetation and shrubs, and even sagebrush plains.
  • Diet: Seeds, fruits, berries, insects and other small animals.

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Western Meadowlark

Western Meadowlark
Image by Jessica Rockeman from Pixabay

Western Meadowlarks are not only beautiful to look at, but they also eat Japanese Beetles. In order to combat this problem, meadowlarks will catch and eat these pesky insects. The best way to help your garden from becoming infested with these destructive bugs is by encouraging the presence of meadowlarks near your property.​​​​​​​

  • Length: 6.0-9.8 in (15-25 cm)
  • Weight: 3.2-4.1 oz (90-116 g)
  • Wingspan: 15.7-16.5 in (40-42 cm)
  • Range: United States and Canada, as well as Central America. ​​​​​​​
  • Habitat: Open fields, grasslands, prairies, orchards, pastures, agricultural land and roadsides. 
  • Diet: Insects as well as seeds and berries.​​​​​​

Related Post: Western Meadowlark Bird Facts

Eastern Meadowlark

Eastern Meadowlarks feed on these beetles because they have adapted to eating their favorite food, which is vegetation and seeds from crops. The meadowlarks usually wait for the beetle to land and then attack it with their beaks, catching them in midair or picking them up off the ground after they land. ​​​​​​​

  • Length: 7.1-10.4 in (18-26.5 cm)
  • Weight: 3.2-5.4 oz (91-152 g)
  • Wingspan: 13.4-16.1 in (34-41 cm)
  • Range: Southern Canada, United States, Northern Mexico.​​​​​​​
  • Habitat: Meadows, farmland, prairies, pastures and grasslands.
  • Diet: Insects, seeds, and berries.​​​​​​​

Gray Catbird

Gray Catbird
Image by Mickey Estes from Pixabay

The gray catbird is a common bird in North America. Gray Catbirds eat Japanese Beetles and have been known to reduce population sizes by 50% or more during their peak season of migration (July-August). In addition to eating the beetles, they also eat insect eggs. 

  • Length: 8.3-9.6 in (21-24.5 cm)
  • Weight: 0.8-2.0 oz (23-57 g)
  • Wingspan: 8.7-12.0 in (22-30.5 cm)
  • Range: Eastern United States includes southeastern Virginia, North Carolina, and central Florida.
  • Habitat: Open woodlands near the edges of fields or brushy areas.
  • Diet: Insects, seeds, berries and occasionally fruit.

House Sparrow

House sparrows eat Japanese beetles. They will eat a beetle and then sit on the ground to pluck out the insides of it, eating all the soft tissue before tossing away what is left. House sparrows are a great way to control the population of Japanese beetles in your yard or garden because they will eat a ton of these insects each day.​​​​​​​

  • Length: 5.7-7.1 in (14.5-18 cm)
  • Weight: 0.92-1.1 oz (26-31 g)
  • Wingspan: 7.9-10.0 in (20-25.5 cm)
  • Range: Europe, Asia, Africa, North America and South America. 
  • Habitat: Open areas such as fields and parks.
  • Diet: Insects, seeds, and food scraps.

Related Post: How to Attract Sparrows to your yard?

Wood Thrush

Wood Thrush
Photo by Nancy Hann on Unsplash

Wood Thrushes are a type of bird that can be found in North America, and their diet consists mainly of insects, including the Japanese Beetle. Wood Thrushes will travel to areas where there is high population density of beetles for an easy meal, so they could potentially help reduce pest populations.​​​​​​​

  • Length: 7.5-8.5 in (19-21.5 cm)
  • Weight: 1.4-1.8 oz (40-51 g)
  • Wingspan: 11.8-13.8 in (30-35 cm)
  • Range: Temperate and subtropical regions of North America, Asia, Europe and Africa. 
  • Habitat: Temperate forests, deciduous forest edges, riparian habitats with trees and shrubs.
  • Diet: Insects, earthworms, spiders, snails, frogs and other small vertebrates as well as berries and fruits.

Related Post: How to Attract Thrushes to your yard?

Brown Thrasher

Brown Thrasher
Image by Miles Moody from Pixabay

The Brown Thrasher is a songbird that is known to eat Japanese beetles. This thrasher uses its curved bill to open the beetle’s hard shell, and then it swallows the insect whole. These birds can eat a great deal of beetles in one day, which helps keep this bug population under control. The brown thrasher is also known as “the destroyer of insects” because they consume so many bugs each day.

  • Length: 8.8-11.8 in (22.5-30 cm)
  • Weight: 2.1-3.1 oz (60-89 g)
  • Wingspan: 11.4-12.8 in (29-32.5 cm)
  • Range: North America, Central America, South America, and parts of Europe.
  • Habitat: Deciduous forests, suburban areas.
  • Diet: Insects, seeds, berries and fruit.

Red-headed Woodpecker

Red-headed Woodpecker
Image by pilgrimpassing from Pixabay

The Red-headed Woodpecker is a bird that has the best defense against Japanese Beetles. The bird eats these beetles and, when they are consumed, their stomach acid breaks down the beetle’s exoskeleton and makes it easier for digestion. Woodpeckers have been known to have eaten more than 1,000 beetles in one day!​​​​​​​

  • Length: 7.1-9.4 in (18-24 cm)
  • Weight: 1.9-3.2 oz (55-92 g)
  • Wingspan: 16.0-16.5 in (40.6-42 cm)
  • Range: United States, Canada, Central America, South America.
  • Habitat: Wetlands, forests, agricultural land, urban areas,
  • Diet:  Mainly insects, but they also eat seeds and berries during the winter months.

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Blue Jay

Japanese beetles are pests to farmers and gardeners, but the blue jay is their natural predator. A blue jay will typically hunt for insects in trees or on the ground by turning over leaves and digging through the soil with its strong beak. The Blue Jay can consume thousands of these bugs, eggs and larva per day! 

  • Length: 9.8-12.2 in (25-31 cm)
  • Weight: 2.5-3.6 oz (70-101 g)
  • Wingspan: 13.4-17.3 in (34-44 cm)
  • Range: Eastern United States, Canada, Central America, and Northern South America.
  • Habitat: Deciduous forests, coniferous forests, and residential areas.
  • Diet: Seeds, fruits, insects, worms and snails.

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Eastern Kingbird

Eastern Kingbird
Image by Diana Roberts from Pixabay

Eastern Kingbirds are the natural enemy of Japanese Beetles. They will eat any beetle they can find, and they do not discriminate between pest beetles or other harmless insects. Eastern Kingbirds have been found to reduce the number of pest beetles by 50% in some areas where they were introduced to control pests such as spruce budworm, gypsy moth, and European elm bark beetle.​​​​​​​

  • Length: 7.9-9.4 in (20-24 cm)
  • Weight: 1.2-1.9 oz (32-55 g)
  • Wingspan: 12.6-15.4 in (32-39 cm)
  • Range: Eastern North America, Central America and South America.
  • Habitat: Coastal marshes, open woodlands, mixed forests, rural and suburban areas.
  • Diet: Mostly of insects, with occasional berries and fruits as well.

Scarlet Tanager

Scarlet Tanager
Image by TheBirdBird from Pixabay

Scarlet Tanagers are a bird that lives in North America. Scarlet Tanagers feed on insects like the Japanese Beetle, so these birds help keep them under control. They also eat some beetles’ eggs before they hatch, stopping the beetle population from getting too big.

  • Length: 6.0-6.9 in (15-17.5 cm)
  • Weight: 0.8-1.38 oz (23-39 g)
  • Wingspan: 9.8-11.8 in (25-30 cm)
  • Range: Eastern United States, with some sightings in Canada and Mexico. 
  • Habitat: Wet forests, dry woodlands, gardens.
  • Diet: Insects, berries and fruits.

Related Post: How to Attract Scarlet Tanagers to your yard?

Northern Mockingbird

Northern Mockingbird
Image by Mohan Nannapaneni from Pixabay

The Northern Mockingbird is a North American bird that eats insects, but typically only during its breeding season from March-July. Northern Mockingbirds feed on insects like the Japanese Beetle. This is beneficial for people with gardens, because it helps to control insect populations and lessens the damage they can do to crops. 

  • Length: 8.1-10.4 in (20.5-26.5 cm)
  • Weight: 1.6-2.0 oz (45-59 g)
  • Wingspan: 11.8-14.2 in (30-36 cm)
  • Range: Eastern United States, Southern Canada, Mexico, and Central America.
  • Habitat: Parks, yards, and rural areas.
  • Diet: Insects, fruit and seeds.

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American Robin

American Robin
Photo by Trac Vu on Unsplash

Robins are not a major predator of Japanese Beetles, but they do eat them occasionally. Robins typically hunt for beetles by searching through foliage and branches for the insects on their surfaces. The robin will then peck at the beetle to stun it before picking it up in its beak and swallowing it whole.​​​​​​​

  • Length: 8.3-11.2 in (21-28.5 cm)
  • Weight: 2.8-3.0 oz (78-86 g)
  • Wingspan: 11.8-15.7 in (30-40 cm)
  • Range: North-eastern United States to southern Canada and south to Central America.
  • Habitat: Open woodlands, suburbs, parks, agricultural fields and brushy hillsides with scattered trees. 
  • Diet: Mainly insects, berries and other fruit.

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Ring-necked Pheasant

Do pheasants eat Japanese beetles? The answer is a resounding “Yes!” Pheasants are one of the few birds that will hunt and consume Japanese beetles. Pheasant farmers use this as an advantage by providing habitat for these hungry, voracious hunters to keep their fields free from pesky invaders. For those with small acreage, planting cover crops such as buckwheat or millet can also help provide an abundant food source for the ever- hungry pheasants.

  • Length: 19.3-28.0 in (49-71 cm)
  • Weight: 17.0-106 oz (482-3005 g)
  • Wingspan: 22.7-33.5 in (55-85 cm)
  • Range: North-eastern United States to southern Canada and south to Central America.
  • Habitat: Open woodlands, suburbs, parks, agricultural fields and brushy hillsides with scattered trees. 
  • Diet: Mainly insects, berries and other fruit.

Frequently Asked Questions

What time of day are Japanese beetles most active?

Japanese beetles are often found around the garden, damaging plants and other garden produce. But when do they come out? Japanese beetles can be active during the day or night, but it is most common to see them in the morning hours between 7am-10am. 

Why are Japanese beetles bad?

Japanese beetles are an invasive species of beetle that have taken over the eastern half of North America. They feed on over 300 types of plants and can cause significant damage to gardens. They pose a serious threat to natural ecosystems because they consume so many leaves, which in turn deprives native insects and animals from food sources. 

What can I spray on plants to keep Japanese beetles away?

There are two ways to protect your plants from these pests: The first is using an organic pesticide such as rotenone, pyrethrum, or neem oil. These pesticides should be applied every few days and reapplied after heavy rain or watering. The second way is to use a chemical pesticide such as carbaryl (Sevin), cyfluthrin, malathion, and permethrin.

What do Japanese beetles hate?

There are many types of plants that repel Japanese beetles; some include rosemary, garlic, onion (and chives), lemongrass, catnip, lavender (and thyme), peppermint (and spearmint). I also found that Pyrethrum daisies, marigolds, and tansy work well.

Will birds eat dead Japanese beetles?

Birds will not eat dead beetles, but they will attack live ones if given the opportunity. Birds typically feed on live insects and spiders that they catch while flying around trees and other plants.