Frugivore Definition - Frugivorous Birds

Bird Diet Types

Woodpecker Eating Cactus Fruit
Don DeBold/Flickr/CC by 2.0

Frugivorous birds often have specialized bills to help them eat fruit most efficiently by cutting through or removing the skin, husk, or hull of preferred fruits.

What Is a Frugivorous Diet?

Frugivorous describes a diet that consists primarily (though not exclusively) of fruit, including tree fruits as well as berries. Several species of bats have frugivorous diets.


(rhymes with "deliver us" "goo shiver fuss" and "moo liver muss")

What Frugivorous Birds Eat

Frugivorous birds eat primarily fruit, and can have a widely varied diet of different types of fruit. Some of the most popular fruits birds consume include:

  • Apples
  • Apricots
  • Bananas
  • Cactus fruit
  • Crab apples
  • Cherries
  • Figs
  • Mangoes
  • Olives
  • Oranges
  • Pears
  • Plums

Berries are another popular food source for frugivorous birds, and berries that make great bird food include:

  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries
  • Buckthorn berries
  • Cranberries
  • Currants
  • Elderberries
  • Grapes
  • Holly berries
  • Huckleberries
  • Juniper berries
  • Mistletoe berries
  • Raspberries
  • Snowberries
  • Strawberries
  • Sumac berries

While some of the fruits birds eat may not be palatable to humans and could even be toxic, birds have different body chemistries and digestive systems that allow them to consume a wider variety of fruits.

Throughout the year, a frugivorous bird's diet may vary depending on which fruits are most readily ripe and ready to eat. These birds also often consume insects for protein, especially during the nesting season when young birds need extra protein for proper growth and development. Some frugivorous birds will also eat nectar and sap, especially when fruit may be less abundant.

Frugivorous birds play an important role in the ecosystem by spreading fruit seeds to distant areas either by hiding food or distributing the seeds through their droppings. This can help replenish the necessary fruit supplies for the birds to thrive and helps restore plentiful habitats.

Frugivorous Bird Species

Many birds eat fruit, including bananaquits, waxwings, hornbills, cassowaries, mistletoebirds, and toucans. Other species such as parrots and orioles show a marked preference for fruit but also eat significant quantities of other foods. Other birds that will sample fruit regularly, even if they aren't entirely frugivorous, include:

  • Blackbirds, grackles, and magpies
  • Chickadees, tits, and titmice
  • Grosbeaks and tanagers
  • Kingbirds and vireos
  • Thrushes, mockingbirds, and thrashers
  • Quail, grouse, and pheasants
  • Wild turkeys
  • Woodpeckers
  • Wrens

Backyard Bird Feeding for Frugivores

With so many different birds willing to sample fruit or subsisting on fruit alone, backyard birders should be ready to provide several feeding areas for fruit-loving birds. Both natural feeding areas and supplemental feeders can be used to feed frugivorous birds. To offer fruit to backyard birds:

  • Plant appropriate fruit trees for birds in the yard or garden, and avoid harvesting or discarding the entire crop each autumn. Birds will happily pick at windfall fruit or leftover fruit still on the plant throughout the fall and winter when other food sources are scarce.
  • Use berry bushes as part of bird-friendly landscaping. Plant these shrubs in tiers and thicket-like areas to provide secure shelter for shy birds as well. Ground-feeding birds such as doves and quail will happily clean up berries that fall.
  • Choose fruit trees and berry bushes based on when the fruit ripens to be sure there is always some fruit available in the yard for hungry birds to eat. Some plants will retain their fruit through the winter as well, which can be critical for winter backyard birds.
  • Offer fruit in feeding areas, such as cut fruit in a platform feeder. Orange halves, soaked raisins, apple chunks, melon rinds and seeds, and other fruits can all be added to bird feeders. Citrus or apple halves can also be impaled on a nail in a post or fence for birds to access easily.
  • Offer fruit-flavored jelly as a treat for birds with a taste for fruit. Grape and apple jellies, along with orange marmalade, are popular flavors birds will love. Avoid low sugar or sugar free varieties, however, which will not provide birds with essential energy.
  • Minimize the use of insecticides and other chemicals to treat any trees or shrubs where birds will feed. Birds don't mind a few bugs in their fruit, but the toxins from chemical treatments can be deadly to birds.
  • Offer birds more fruit through fun bird feeder garlands or by decorating an edible bird house with small bits of fresh or dried fruit. This will be especially welcome in winter when natural fruit sources may already be exhausted.

Also Known As

Fruit-Eating, Frugivore (noun)