If you've noticed a large beehive near your house, don't expect birds to dive in and eradicate the bees for you. Many bird species are omnivorous, eating insects for protein and seeds or grain for other nutrients. The birds might snag an occasional bee, but most stick to slow-moving insects that don't take as much speed or precision to catch.
Bees are small and fast, and they don't always fly in a straight line. To catch a flying bee, a bird must be capable of extremely fast bursts of speed. Also, the bird must have a strong innate accuracy, judging the right speed and angle to catch a bee on the fly. Most birds that snack on a bee occasionally grab bees that are hurt, dying or dead and already stationary on the ground. Some, however, are bee-catching experts.
Bee-Eaters and Summer Tanagers
Bee-eaters are aptly named birds who prefer a diet of bees and wasps. They prefer the plump honey bees and bumble bees, but they also eat wasps, hornets, dragonflies and other flying insects. Their instincts are so honed that they won't attack a bee sitting beside them on a limb; they only go for insects that are flying. Bee-eaters are found mostly in Africa, Asia, southern Europe and Australia. In North and South America, the summer tanager feeds primarily on bees and wasps, grabbing other flying insects when a bee isn't readily available.
Other Bee-Eating Birds
Other birds who eat bees do so only on occasion, not as a main diet staple. These include kingbirds, swifts, mockingbirds, thrushes and martins. In most cases, these birds grab bees off the ground, not in flight. Woodpeckers can single in on a hive and enjoy the protein boost.
What Other Birds Eat
Most birds won't turn down an easy meal of a dead or dying bee that has fallen to the ground because they prefer slow-moving meals. Birds tend to hunt worms, caterpillars, beetles, grubs and spiders. Being omnivores, they balance out their diets with seeds and grains, enjoying food such as black-oil sunflower seeds, white proso millet, peanuts and cracked corn -- the primary ingredients in many bird seed mixes. Some also enjoy fruit.