Skip to Content

Do Birds Eat Monarch Caterpillars?

Although the population of monarch butterflies is starting to slowly increase again after a couple of decades in decline, there are still a number of people who are doing their best to protect monarch caterpillars.

The general goal of the movement is to ensure that as many monarch caterpillars survive as possible to help the species recover from such a prolonged period of decline.

With a surprisingly high number of people getting involved in the various projects to protect monarch butterflies around the world we have seen a number of questions about monarch caterpillar and monarch butterfly predators.

This has resulted in a spike in the number of people that we see asking if birds eat monarch caterpillars.

Due to seeing so many people asking if birds will eat monarch caterpillars as well as the types of birds that will eat them, we have decided to publish this dedicated article on the topic.

Our hope is that we will be able to help as many of our readers as possible protect any monarch caterpillars in their garden and prevent them from being eaten by the local bird population to help the monarch butterfly population recover at a faster pace.

Do Birds Eat Monarch Caterpillars?

Although many birds will commonly hunt monarch butterflies while in flight, a number of birds will also eat monarch caterpillars that they find while in a tree, bush or shrub.

Birds are generally considered the third largest predator thread to monarch caterpillars behind spiders and fire ants.

Thankfully, if you do want to try and give your local monarch butterfly population a helping hand, it is much easier to protect your monarch caterpillars from birds than it is from spiders and fire ants.

Depending on the type of garden you have with the plants and shrubs available, there is also a chance that you are providing natural cover to help protect the caterpillars anyway.

Some birds will eat a monarch caterpillar and realize that they taste terrible and not try to eat them anymore too.

This can also work in to the caterpillar favor too as birds generally prefer other food sources if possible so putting up a bird feeder in your garden may be enough to discourage the birds from eating your monarch caterpillars in some situations.

How Do I Keep Birds From Eating My Monarch Caterpillars?

A number of products have been released over the last five years or so to help protect your monarch caterpillars from your local birds.

The best option by far is probably a netted monarch caterpillar habitat as they can also protect the caterpillars from other predators such as spiders and fire ants too.

We feel that the RESTCLOUD Insect and Butterfly Habitat Cage Terrarium Pop-up 23.6 Inches Tall is the best option on the market by far due to it being cheap but performing very well. It has an excellent reputation amongst the various communities of people trying to save the monarch butterfly all over the world and has a great record of keeping the caterpillars safe from their potential predators.

Monarch caterpillars need milkweed to survive but thankfully, milkweed seeds are very cheap.

The general idea is that you will have some milkweed growing in your garden anyway but also keep some in pots and then put the netted monarch caterpillar habitat over the top of one of your potted milkweed plants and then transfer the caterpillars that you find in your garden to the habitat.

You can have a single habitat or multiple habitats to help ensure there is plenty of space than once the caterpillars change into butterflies you simply release them and then put the net back in place until all of the caterpillars have transformed.

What Birds Eat Monarch Butterfly Caterpillars?

Most birds will eat monarch caterpillars if they find them in a tree, bush or shrub but some bird species will only eat a monarch caterpillar once due to their foul taste.

Unfortunately, most of the local birds in the areas where monarch butterflies choose to lay their eggs will happily eat monarch caterpillars.

Brown thrashers, grackles, robins, cardinals, sparrows, scrub jays and pinyon jays tend to actively hunt the monarch butterflies but the majority of birds will eat their caterpillars if they see them.

Some birds have apparently worked out how to tell if a monarch caterpillar or butterfly has a high amount of cardenolides in them that cause the foul taste too and will avoid these particular caterpillars or butterflies.

This is another reason that making sure you have plenty of milkweed growing in your garden is important as it provides the caterpillars with the cardenolides they need as they eat the plants.

We have seen a number of methods targeted to keeping specific birds that eat monarch caterpillars away from your garden but these birds also eat the spiders, ants, and wasps that eat your monarch caterpillars so there is a trade off.

Do Monarch Caterpillars Taste Bad To Birds?

Monarch caterpillars tend to have a fowl taste due to living on milkweed plants.

As the caterpillars eat the milkweed, they store a large amount of cardenolides that taste bad to birds with many birds preferring other food sources if possible and some refusing to eat a monarch caterpillar after tasting them once unless they are starving.

This is why one of the easiest things that you are able to do to help the monarch caterpillars in your garden is to add a bird feeder and keep plenty of bird food in it.

Many of the local birds will prefer to eat seeds and nuts in a bird feeder rather than monarch caterpillars due to how bad they taste.

As we touched on earlier, you can also help to improve the survival rate of the monarch caterpillars in your garden by ensuring that there is plenty of milkweed growing in your garden.

The more cardenolides in the caterpillar the more likely it is for some birds to just leave it alone due to being able to tell the caterpillars cardenolides levels.


That brings our article going over if birds eat monarch caterpillars and how you can protect your monarch caterpillars from your local birds to an end. There really are a number of simple steps that you are able to take if you do want to give your local monarch butterfly population a helping hand. They are all relatively cheap while offering a huge benefit to the recovery of the monarch butterfly population making it well worth the time and effort in our opinion.