The deadliest man-killer on earth is not a shark or a snake but the humble mosquito. The females need to feed on blood to help them form their eggs. It’s that bite that can transmit numerous illnesses and parasites to people, their pets and their livestock.
Nature has a way of keeping everything in balance. In order to keep down mosquitoes and their bites, Nature has many critters that prey on mosquitoes, including these five bird species.
1. Do Purple Martin (Progne subis) Eat Mosquitoes?
According to some bad studies done in the early Twentieth century, purple martins got the reputation of feeding mostly on mosquitoes. Actually, mosquitoes only make up about three percent of their diet. Still, they eat mosquitoes as well as other biting pests like flies, gnats, Japanese beetles and cucumber beetles.
Sadly, purple martins (and bug-eating birds as a whole) are in decline. Some species have rebounded after the pesticide DDT was banned but not the purple martin. Their breeding and wintering areas have mostly been torn down and developed.
Another major purple martin killer is collision with windows. Birds just cannot see that a window is not clear air. Placing stickers on windows is the best thing anyone can do to help reduce bird deaths.
2. Do Barn Swallow (Hinrundo rustica) Eat Mosquitoes?
Barn swallows spend most of their lives on the wing, so their prey consists of winged insects. One barn swallow can eat an average of 850 insects per day. Not all of them will be mosquitoes, but barn swallows will still snack on them.
Unlike many species of birds, barn swallows have adjusted to living near people. They make nests in garages, ledges, bridges and (surprise) barns. They will leave droppings on the ground, but that’s a small inconvenience for a free exterminator of mosquitoes, gnats, flies, beetles and termites.
Bird droppings can be hosed off concrete. If they are stubborn, use plain dishwashing detergent and an old brush to scrub them off. Make everything less messy by sprinkling sawdust or non-clumping kitty litter before sweeping.
3. Do Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor) Eat Mosquitoes?
Like their cousin the barn swallow, tree swallows also rely in winged insects for food. Unlike their cousin, they prefer live in woods or near natural water sources. Unlike many bird species, their numbers thriving.
The tree swallow lives in a wide area from Alaska to the Caribbean. It lives in North America during the summer and winters in the South. This means tree swallows are in the right place to harvest bugs all year round.
Although they do eat mosquitoes, the largest part of their diet is flies. They do not always hunt flying insects but also will land on the ground, tree trunk or wall when they hunt. They have a particularly lovely song.
4. Do Muscovy Duck (Cairina moschata) Eat Mosquitoes?
Most waterfowl will eat mosquitoes, but the Muscovy duck is an eye-catching mosquito-catcher. Originally from Mexico it can be found all over the United States and southern Canada. Their population is doing well.
Muscovy ducks eat mosquito larvae as well as adults. This means they can cut into the mosquito population before they start buzzing. There are domesticated Muscovy ducks which help owners of ponds keep the area bug-free.
They cannot live on mosquitoes alone. They also eat snails, small freshwater crabs and larvae of other bug species that live in the water. They also need a wide variety of plants in their diet to stay a happy, healthy exterminator.
5. Do Blackpoll Warbler (Setophaga striata) Eat Mosquitoes?
This little black and white songbird is also doing well despite the dominance of humans. They are widespread in Canada during the summer but sometimes live in America’s most northern states. They eat bugs as they fly to South America for the summer.
When autumn approaches, they turn brown and white. This may be how most Americans see them as they rest during their migrations. They prefer to rest and hunt insects deeply in trees, so they can be hard to spot.
They eat not just mosquitoes but a wide variety of pests like gnats, aphids, lice, sawflies, termites, webworms and cankerworms. Occasionally they eat berries.
How Effective Are Mosquito-eating Birds?
Animals that eat mosquitoes, such as birds, bats and spiders, do provide a dent in the mosquito population. However, they are not effective in severe infestations. This is because these critters need to eat a wide variety of bugs and not just mosquitoes.
In a healthy environment, there would be many critters around to keep insect populations in check. These would include fish, amphibians and dragonflies as well as bats and birds. Sadly, with human overpopulation, natural habitats are lost to make houses, malls and highways.
Attracting mosquito-eating birds such as purple martins to your backyard helps not only to keep down mosquitoes and flies but also helps to keep the environment healthy. Once upon a time, DDT was thought to be the cure-all for biting bugs. Now we know that pesticides do more harm than natural predators like purple martins, swallows, ducks and blackpoll warblers.