What Birds Eat Tomatoes? (+ Tips to Protect Tomato Plants)

Tomatoes are a popular choice for gardeners and home growers, providing a plentiful supply of delicious fruits. These juicy, easily accessible freshly ripened tomatoes could be adversely affected by various pests, including birds. Birds can target tomato plants during their fruiting stage and indulge in the ripe fruits as a source of sustenance and hydration.

Several species of birds, such as cardinals, sparrows, blackbirds, starlings, grackles, and pigeons, are known to be attracted to tomatoes. These birds, classified as “granivores,” primarily consume seeds, making tomato plants a prime target for them. Knowing which birds are drawn to tomatoes and understanding their behavior is crucial for protecting your tomato plants and ensuring a bountiful harvest.

Key Takeaways

  • Birds are attracted to tomatoes, particularly during the fruiting stage, for food and hydration.
  • Several bird species, including cardinals and sparrows, are known for targeting tomato plants.
  • Implementing protective measures and providing alternative food sources can help prevent birds from feasting on your tomatoes.

Birds That Eat Tomatoes

Tomatoes are a favorite treat for many birds, both for their taste and the water content they provide. This makes these juicy fruits an attractive target during the ripening stage. Let’s explore some of the bird species that enjoy feasting on tomatoes.

Read Next: What Types of Birds Eat Strawberries?


Mockingbirds are known for their varied diet, and tomatoes are no exception. They are particularly drawn to ripe tomatoes and can be quite persistent in their quest to enjoy them.


Cardinals are another species that partake in tomato consumption. These red-plumed birds can often be spotted nibbling on ripe or even unripe tomatoes in gardens and fields.


A diverse group of birds, quail have also been observed eating tomatoes. These ground-dwelling birds are mostly interested in eating the seeds contained within the ripe fruits.

Blue Jays

Blue Jays, on the other hand, will consume both the outer flesh and seeds of tomatoes. These birds are less selective when it comes to their snacking preferences.

Other Tomato-Eating Bird Species

Sparrows, blackbirds, and starlings share an affinity for the taste of tomatoes, with each species indulging in the ripe fruits whenever the opportunity arises. These birds are attracted to the bright colors and juicy texture of ripe tomatoes, which make them an irresistible treat.

Many bird species that are known to eat fruit will also consume tomatoes, and this includes thrushes and robins. Additionally, grackles and pigeons might be spotted taking a few bites of ripe tomatoes in gardens, adding to the list of tomato-enthusiast birds.

Various species of finches, like the grosbeak and waxwing, are also attracted to tomatoes for their nutritional value and moisture. These small birds typically prefer to consume ripe fruit, making tomatoes an ideal snack.

Why Birds Are Attracted to Tomatoes

Tomatoes are a favorite in many gardens, not just for humans but also for a variety of bird species. Birds are attracted to tomatoes for several reasons, including their bright colors, sweet taste, and the nutrients they provide.

  • Color: The vibrant colors of ripe and unripe tomatoes act as natural attractants for many bird species. Green, orange, and red hues signal ripeness and freshness, which can be very appealing for hungry birds looking for a meal.
  • Nutrients: Nutrients found in tomatoes, such as vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, are essential for maintaining a bird’s overall health. Just like humans, birds require a balanced diet to function properly and remain healthy. Tomatoes are a valuable addition to their diet, supplying crucial nutrients they may not get from other sources.
  • Hydration: Another factor that contributes to birds’ attraction to tomato plants is the nectar that flows through the plant’s system. This sweet liquid is produced by tomatoes as part of their growth process, and it’s an additional source of nutrition and hydration for birds. Nectar-loving birds, such as hummingbirds, find the taste of this sugar-rich fluid irresistible and will visit tomato plants for a quick energy boost.
  • Acidity: Lastly, the acidic nature of tomatoes is a key reason why some bird species are drawn to them. Certain birds have evolved to enjoy foods with a more acidic flavor profile. The high acidity of tomatoes does not cause any harm to these birds, and in fact, it might offer some health benefits, such as aiding in digestion and boosting immunity.

By understanding why birds are attracted to tomatoes, gardeners can take appropriate measures to protect their tomato plants from bird damage while still ensuring these feathered friends have access to the wholesome nutrition they need.

Preventing Birds from Eating Tomato Plants

Keeping birds away from your tomato plants can be a challenging task. However, there are several methods you can use to protect your precious tomatoes and enjoy a bountiful harvest. Here are some of the most effective ways to prevent birds from eating your tomato plants:

Water Features

Creating a bird-friendly environment in your garden can be beneficial to both gardeners and birds. By providing an inviting space for birds to enjoy away from your tomato plants, you can reduce their temptation to feed on the tomatoes.

One effective way to create a bird-friendly environment is to provide a water source, such as birdbaths or a water feature, which can attract birds and keep them occupied. Birds need water for drinking and bathing, and having easy access to it will make them less likely to seek moisture from your plants. Adding a water feature in your garden not only benefits the birds, but it can also enhance the aesthetic appeal of your garden.

Bird Feeders

Another method is to provide food for the birds in the form of bird feeders. By offering them an easy meal in a designated area of your garden, birds will be less inclined to seek sustenance from your tomato plants. Planting bird-friendly plants like viburnum, serviceberry, and coneflower can also give birds an alternative food source, keeping them satisfied and away from your precious tomatoes.


Bird netting is a practical and straightforward approach to safeguard your tomatoes. You can drape the netting over your tomato plants, making sure it is securely fastened to stakes or a cage to keep the birds out. Make sure there are no gaps for the birds to squeeze through.


Using cages to surround your tomato plants also provides an effective barrier against birds. You can find cages made specifically for tomato plants, and they offer the added benefit of supporting the growth of your tomatoes. Be sure to anchor the cage securely in the ground to prevent it from tipping over.


A traditional scarecrow can be used to deter birds from your garden by tricking them into believing there is a potential threat nearby. This method can be effective but might lose its efficiency over time, as birds become familiar with the scarecrow.

Shiny Objects

Hanging shiny objects such as CDs, DVDs, or aluminum pie pans around your tomato plants could help keep birds at bay. The reflective surfaces of these items will create a flashing effect that can frighten birds, making them less likely to approach your tomato plants.

Physical Barriers

Wire or fishing line can be used to create a physical barrier around your plants. String the wire between stakes or poles, making sure it is taut and placed at varying heights to confuse and deter birds. You can also combine this with reflective tape to increase the effectiveness.

Wind Chimes

Wind chimes are another option for keeping birds away from your tomato plants. The noise produced by wind chimes can be enough to scare the birds, and their movement can also be an added deterrent.

Row Covers

Using row covers over your tomato plants can help protect them from birds and other pests. The covers create a physical barrier that prevents birds from accessing the plants, while simultaneously allowing sunlight and air to pass through.

Alternative Food Sources for Birds

Providing alternative food sources for wild birds is an excellent way to keep them away from your tomato plants. Setting up bird feeders and filling them with bird-appropriate feed will encourage birds to feast on the feed rather than the tomatoes.

Seeds and Grains

Popular options for bird feed include seeds and grains, like safflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and cracked corn. Placing bird feeders strategically throughout your garden will make it easier for birds to access these alternative food sources.

Fresh Fruit

In addition to offering seeds and grains at bird feeders, providing fresh fruits can also appeal to birds’ dietary preferences. Many wild birds enjoy feasting on fruits like berries, grapes, or even small portions of melons. Hang these fruits near your bird feeders to further tempt the birds away from your precious tomato plants.

Sunflowers and Berry Bushes

Sunflowers and berry bushes can serve as both natural and visually appealing alternatives to your tomatoes. These plants not only offer food for the birds but also add beauty and texture to your garden. Consider planting these in close proximity to birdbaths to encourage birds to stay in that vicinity.

Tip: Speaking of birdbaths, they serve a dual purpose in our approach to deter birds from eating tomatoes. Birds are attracted to garden areas with birdbaths, where they can drink and bathe. By placing birdbaths near sunflowers, berry bushes, and bird feeders, you create a welcoming area for birds that also keeps them away from your tomato plants.

Cooked or Dried Tomatoes

While tomatoes are a tempting treat for birds, providing dried or cooked tomatoes in moderation might be another option to distract them from feasting on your fresh tomato plants. Make sure to avoid offering tomatoes in large quantities, as they could potentially cause digestive issues for some birds.

By offering various food sources through bird feeders, planting attractive and alternative plants like sunflowers and berry bushes, and providing water access with birdbaths, you can create an appealing environment for birds that deters them from eating your tomatoes while promoting a thriving garden ecosystem.

Protecting Tomato Plants from Other Pests and Animals

Tomato plants are susceptible to various pests and animals that can lead to damage of leaves, seedlings, flowers, and fruits. In order to protect your tomatoes from such nuisances, it is essential to be aware of which creatures pose a threat and implement effective methods to keep them at bay.


A common issue with tomato plants is the infestation of tomato hornworms. These large green caterpillars are known for munching on tomato leaves, seedlings, and even young fruit. To control hornworms, you can handpick them from the plants and drop them in soapy water or utilize natural predators, like ladybugs and wasps, that feed on these pests.

Deer and Rabbits

Rabbits and deer are also fond of snacking on tomato plants, especially the young seedlings. Installing fences or protective barriers around the garden can help protect your tomatoes from these hungry herbivores. It’s essential to make sure that these enclosures are strong and high enough to prevent curious creatures from jumping or pushing through.

Squirrels and Raccoons

Other critters that could potentially cause damage to your tomato plants are raccoons and squirrels. They tend to be attracted to the ripe fruit more than anything else, so employing protective measures such as netting or placing bird spikes around the ripening tomatoes can prove very effective.


Aside from larger animals, your tomato plants might fall victim to smaller pests like caterpillars and various insects. One way to tackle these issues is by applying organic pesticides sparingly and adequately. Make sure to follow the label instructions and apply only when necessary to reduce the chances of negatively impacting beneficial insects.

In addition to all these preventative measures, maintaining your tomato plants’ overall health can make them less attractive to pests and animals. Practicing good garden hygiene, like regularly removing fallen leaves or rotten fruit, can prevent unwanted visitors. Regularly inspecting your plants for any signs of damage or infestations would allow you to act promptly and minimize the impact of these unwanted intruders.

By keeping all these tips in mind and employing proactive strategies, you can significantly reduce the chances of losing your tomato plants to various pests and animals. Happy gardening!

Frequently Asked Questions

Do birds eat cherry tomatoes?

Yes, birds can and do eat cherry tomatoes. Birds typically target tomato plants, including cherry tomato varieties, during the fruiting stage once the tomatoes begin to ripen. They are attracted to the taste and juiciness of ripe tomatoes as a source of food and water, particularly during the summer months. Birds have been known to eat both ripe and unripe tomatoes.

Can birds consume tomato leaves?

While birds are predominantly interested in eating the actual tomatoes, some birds may inadvertently consume small amounts of tomato leaves. However, the leaves of tomato plants belong to the nightshade family and contain compounds that are toxic to both humans and animals. It is not typical behavior for birds to eat significant amounts of tomato leaves.

How can I protect my tomatoes from birds and squirrels?

To protect your tomatoes from birds and squirrels, you can employ various methods:

  1. Place bird netting or garden fabric over your tomato plants to create a physical barrier.
  2. Use reflective materials like old CDs or aluminum foil strips to deter birds as the light reflection can scare them away.
  3. Set up motion-activated sprinklers or animal repellant devices around your garden.
  4. Grow additional plants with strong scents, like basil, that can potentially deter small animals.

Do cardinals enjoy eating tomatoes?

Cardinals, like many other birds, are attracted to tomatoes and may eat them when they find them in gardens. They are primarily seed and fruit eaters and may be drawn to tomato plants when the tomatoes are ripe and easily accessible. However, they are not exclusive to eating tomatoes and consume a variety of other fruits and seeds as well.

Are birds attracted to tomato plants?

Birds are indeed attracted to tomato plants, especially during the fruiting stage when the tomatoes ripen. The juicy and delicious ripe tomatoes serve as a source of food and water for many birds, making the plants highly appealing to them.

What animals may eat my tomatoes at night?

Aside from birds, a variety of other animals may target your tomatoes during nighttime. Some common culprits include:

  1. Squirrels
  2. Raccoons
  3. Rabbits
  4. Deer
  5. Slugs and snails

To protect your tomatoes from these nocturnal creatures, consider employing deterrents such as fencing, repellents, or traps, following local regulations and ensuring no harm to the animals.

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