17 Types of Herbivorous Birds Across The World (+ Pics)

While most birds are considered omnivores, there are a few individuals whose diet is entirely plant-based. 

These few herbivorous birds have plenty of options, with nectar, algae, seeds, nuts, pollen, plant fluids, and even wood at their disposal. 

However, it’s important to point out that only a handful exclusively survives on plant-based foods. Some stray from their diet due to unavoidable circumstances such as food scarcity and when in captivity. But despite that, the birds are still considered herbivores. 

Read: 15 Gorgeous Green Birds in Florida (See Pics)

To help increase your animal awareness, we’ve done in-depth research from trusted sources and compiled credible information in this post. You’ll know the specific parts of plants the different birds consume and some cool tidbits about some of them.

And off we start.

List of 17 Herbivorous Birds Across the World

1. Hoatzins

Hoatzins are chicken-sized (although somewhat slender) tropical birds native to South America. They adorn prolonged rufous and spiky crests and are known for their chicks which hatch with two large claws on their wing digits but disappear as they grow. 

Hoatzins are exclusively folivores, herbivores that primarily eat leaves, flowers, and fruits. The birds have more than fifty species of plants to consume, and their diet is mainly leaves, with only 10 percent going to flowers and 8 percent to fruits. 

What’s more, the birds are so strange, with a weird digestive system that ferments their food – the way cattle do. This digestive system arms the birds with a stinky odor, enough to ward off predators, including human hunters. 

When not feeding, the birds spend the better part of their days perched on trees on wetlands.

2. Parrots

Parrots are no new bird to many. And they consist of more than 398 species worldwide.

Parrots live in the wild, but most species, including Amazon parrots and macaws, are kept as pets because they’re colorful, have big personalities, and are one of the many intelligent birds in the world. 

Parrots feed primarily on plant materials, with seeds at the top of the list. That’s why they’ve evolved short but powerful curved bills as an adaptation for breaking open seeds.

But in the wild as well as at home, parrots supplement their almost-entirely seed diet with nuts, buds, flowers, and fruits. And in rare occasions, the birds can say yes to insects, although in insignificant quantities.

3. Sparrows

Sparrows are little, compact, and agile birds found everywhere in the world, in the wild and at home. People love them due to their cheerful chirping and cute little faces. There are 28 true species of sparrows, with the House sparrow being the most common. 

In the wild, the little birds live in open habitats with bushes and a few trees, and you’ll find them near the ground. Here, sparrows forage for their most preferred food, seeds, and grains. That’s why they’re tiny tongues to dehusk seeds effortlessly. 

Sparrows also perch on trees to munch on fruits and nuts. Only on rare occasions, like parrots, do they ask insects what they offer nutrient-wise. 

And even at home, our feathered friends’ main diet is seeds and nuts, although they won’t say no when you present vegetables and other plant materials.

4. Nene Geese

The rarest geese in the world, nenes are medium-sized geese endemic to the Hawaiian Islands. Their nene name comes from their chirps, regarded as soft and gentle in the Hawaiian language. 

Like most geese species, nenes are exclusively herbivores and have at least 30 species of native and introduced plants to explore. They can browse on the leaves of plants, such as shrubbery, or graze on grasses. Their diet is not limited to grasses and leaves, as you can also find seeds of grass, fruits, and flowers on their menu.

5. Oilbirds

The brown oilbirds are medium-sized, nocturnal birds that use echolocation, like a bat, to move around. Always in noisy colonies, the birds nest inside caves. 

The odd birds are herbivores, frugivores, in particular, meaning their diet is composed of only fruits. And not all fruits are equal to the eyes of oilbirds. The nocturnal birds have an intense craving for the ripe black oil palm fruits, which they aggressively pluck out thanks to their formidable hooked bills. They can also add fruits of tropical laurels and torchwood to their menu. 

Unlike other birds, oilbirds can range up to 150 miles a night as they hunt for fruits. That’s why they’re critical in the ecosystem, helping distribute new fruit trees far and wide as they excrete the seeds they eat. 

Fun fact; the oilbirds derive their name from their chicks, which are so fat that local people hunted them to make oil for cooking and lighting.

6. Bearded Bellbird

Bearded-Bellbird

Bearded Bellbirds are small arboreal birds native to South Americas moist tropical forests. The males have facial wattles resembling a beard. 

Like oilbirds, bearded bellbirds are frugivores. But unlike their friends who prefer oil fruits, bellbirds have a sweet tooth and usually eat berries which they pick on their wings. They’ve wide mouths as they gobble the berries whole. Even the chicks are herbivorous, and since they can’t open their mouths to swallow berries, their mothers have to eat and then regurgitate to them. 

Bellbirds are also tree-planting birds as they disperse seeds about 100 meters from the source through defecation and regurgitation. 

Read: 15 Most Clumsy Animals in the World

Fun fact; Bearded Bellbirds get their second name due to the repetitive, metallic calls of the males, which you can hear while you’re a half-mile away. It earns them the bell-ringer nickname. Also, the birds are polygamous, and the males occupy an exclusive territory, open to the females only when they need to select a mate.

7. Greylag Geese

Greylag geese are enormous pale grey geese with orange bills and pink legs. They’re kept for meat in homes, but in Scotland, you can find them in the wild. 

Mainly herbivorous birds, these geese primarily live on grass, including wheat, barley, bluegrass, orchard grass, and other tough grasses. That said, their diet is so broad to comprise seed heads and several aquatic plants such as sedges. They’ll also pull rhizomes and roots of the aquatic plants to eat. And although they don’t eat them in many quantities, these geese won’t say no to an offer of berries.

8. Pine Siskins

Pine Siskins are little birds with brown upper parts and pale bellies. Due to their coloration, you might struggle to differentiate them from other small birds until you hear them making their distinctive calls which mimic the sound produced when you tear a piece of paper into two. 

Always found in forested urban areas, you can spot the little birds hanging (even upside down) on cones and pines, where the bulk of their diet comes from. They’re not afraid to invade farms as well, foraging tiny seeds, including red alder, spruce, birch, and thistle. 

However, during summer Pine siskins will try insects – in small amounts – and feed them to their chicks. 

Fun fact; Pine Siskins temporarily store seeds (about 10 percent of their body mass) in their crop. That’s enough to keep the little birds for around six nighttime hours.

9. Pigeons

Both urban and wild pigeons are herbivorous birds, with the latter having access to a much nutritional diet. 

While the urban pigeons survive mainly on seeds and grains, their wild counterparts have plenty of options, with berries, nuts, grit, and other plant-based foods at their disposal. 

That said, pigeons will stray from their plant-based diet, particularly when hungry, making them munch on small insects and worms.

10. Lorikeets

Lorikeets are small, beautiful, and playful birds that live in the wild but are also an entertaining addition to your home. 

The little birds are primarily polynivorous and nectarivorous, meaning their menus are dominated by pollen and nectar. That’s why it’s difficult to raise at home (unless you’ve got a flower garden). 

That said, their diet is not limited to pollen and nectar. Because of their sweet tooth, lorikeets will also feed on sugary fruits such as berries and green but sugary leaves.

11. Snow Geese

Snow geese are medium-sized long-distance migratory birds native to North America. They can be either white or dark and are among the most decorated birds, with pink legs and feet, black wing tips, and black eyes. And on their orang-pink beaks, the birds adorn black lines on the edges to look like they’re smiling. 

These geese are primarily herbivores that usually forage in flocks by majestically walking in shallow waters or on land, looking for leaves, roots, and seeds of different species of wild grass, such as horsetails, sedges, and bulrushes. But during the fall, when their preferred foods are scarce, snow geese survive mostly on berries. 

The young gooselings, however, sometimes feed on insect larvae.

12. American Goldfinches

American Goldfinches are small migratory birds and one of the most beautiful, thanks to their gold bodies and black feathers that adorn a white stripe. 

As granivores, goldfinches are abundant in areas with plenty of seeds. They’ve got a higher preference for daisy seeds, but they also explore grasses, weeds, and small trees such as alder, birch, and elm to see what they offer. 

When seeds are scarce, particularly during the summer, the adorable birds stray from their granivore diet and live on maple sap, buds, and barks of young twigs. Even mothers feed their chicks regurgitated seeds. Only on rare occasions do American goldfinches resort to insects and in limited amounts.

13. Honeyeaters

Honeyeaters are small and diverse groups of songbirds commonly found in Australia. 

Usually hovering over flowers, honeyeaters chiefly live on a plant-based diet comprised of nectar and pollen. They also suck juices from berries and sugary secretions from insects such as plant bugs that occupy their niche. But out of hunger, the songbirds can stray from their usual diet and gobble the insects whole instead of only taking their sap. 

14. Takahes

Takahes are small to medium-sized flightless birds with stout red legs and powerful bills. They only use their wings during courtship and when they get aggressive. 

Takahes are primarily herbivorous, either at sanctuary sites or in the wild. In the wild, they inhabit grasslands where they forage for starchy leaf bass of sedge and tussock. But when there’s heavy snow cover, the birds move to the forest to munch on rhizomes of summer green ferns. The birds also strike seeds from grasses, if available. 

Only on rare occasions do takahe seek proteins from insects such as moths and beetles. 

Fun fact; takahes can produce about 9 meters of poop a day thanks to their fibrous diet.

15. Kakapos

Also known as owl parrots, kakapos are large, nocturnal, flightless, ground-dwelling parrots native to New Zealand. 

Primarily herbivores, kakapos have a diverse plant diet, although their most preferred meal comes from fruits of the rimu tree. In fact, when these fruits are in plenty, the birds will eat nothing but them! 

When rimu fruits are unavailable, the parrots will turn to other plant materials, including roots, stems, pollen, and seeds. When chewing tough foliage, the birds leave behind small, crescent-shaped chews as they pass the food from bottom to top. 

However, kakapo’s diet is not 100% plant-based. Sometimes the birds enquire about bugs and larvae.

16. Canadian Geese

Canadian geese are gigantic wild geese with brown bodies, black necks, heads, and white cheeks. They inhabit temperate regions of North America. 

Like many goose species, Canadian geese are herbivores, which, when not flying, are seen grazing on land. They’ve got a diverse diet, including stems and shoots of grasses, seeds, bulbs, and berries if they can find them. They also forage in water for aquatic plants, but when they catch crustaceans, they don’t neglect them.

Read: 13 Animals With Beautiful Black Fur

17. Cedar Waxwings

Cedar Waxwings are small and astonishing birds with a range of silk colors from brown to lemon-yellow to gray. They’re recognizable due to their subdued crest, rakish black mask, and bright red-wax-like droplets and wing tips. 

The birds are frugivores and get their name from their favorite fruit, cedar. But you’ll find a host of other fruits on their menu, including madrone, strawberries, dogwood, and other seasonal sugary fruits. 

Only during the breeding season do cedar waxwings supplement their diet with proteins that they get from insects, especially dragonflies. During this season, you’ll find the birds gracefully darting over ponds and streams, hunting for the insects which they catch mid-air.

Disclaimer: This blog should not be considered as being professional pet medical advice. The content published on this blog is for informational purposes only. Please always consult with a licensed and local veterinarian for medical advice.

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