I am probably one of the least qualified people to write a post with this title, as my interest in food is quite limited, as long as I do not go hungry. That makes me a bit of an oddity here in China, where people share photos of their meals online and spend (by my rough estimate) about half of their lifetime talking and thinking about what to eat next.

But I am interested in what birds eat at my local patch here at Nanhui in Shanghai. The variety is similar to the food available in a Cantonese restaurant. Vegetarian food seems less interesting, or maybe it is just more difficult to capture on a photo …

Many birds seem to regard Nanhui as a seafood restaurant. Fish is a popular choice. Presumably, it is quite fresh so close to the sea.


Grey Heron: Some sizes of fish seem more suitable than others


Pied Kingfisher

Black-faced Spoonbill: The canteen is very busy today

Striated Heron

Yellow Bittern: A bittern recently stuck me with its beak when I freed it from a fishing net. Hurt a bit, but must be much worse for the fish.

Little Grebe: With 4 chicks waiting for the fish, maybe better to eat it yourself …

Some birds seem to prefer crustaceans.

Black-capped Kingfisher

Little Egret: There is a shrimp farm by the seaside. Very easy work.


Similar to the Chinese, birds do not seem to mind eating frogs and toads.

Cattle Egret

Brown Shrike


Rodents seem to be less popular, or less available.

Black-winged Kite: Yes, it is a tail


And of course, there are all kinds of insects, spiders, dragonflies, caterpillars, etc. I wish I could be more precise about them, but I am not an entomologist.

Tiger Shrike

Brown Shrike: Shrikes that are on a diet only eat the legs

Cuckoo species (common?): A clever strategy to specialize on something that everybody thinks is disgusting

Black-winged Cuckoo Shrike

Amur Paradise Flycatcher: If I was molting that badly, I would try not to have my photo taken

Asian Brown Flycatcher

Blue-and-white Flycatcher: Cannot help thinking that the bird looks happy about its catch. The dragonfly, maybe not so much

Oriental Magpie-Robin

Eurasian Jay

Black Drongo

Brown-eared Bulbul: I assume this is an insect, but it could really be anything

Fairy Pitta: The bird got plenty of mealworms from the bird photographers, but apparently also wanted something a bit crunchier


In contrast, fruit is less popular, or less available.

Japanese Waxwing: Is it just me, or does the bird look slightly angry about having to eat fruit?

Light-vented Bulbul: They do not mind

When I go to Nanhui, I usually bring my own food – some kind of biscuits made for the Chinese military. Kept them strong on the long march, presumably. So, don`t worry – I do not compete with the birds for food. Particularly not for the caterpillars, green and juicy as they may look.

Written by Kai Pflug
Kai Pflug has been living in Shanghai for 20 years. He only became interested in birds in China – so he is much more familiar with birds in China than with those in Germany. While he will only ever be an average birder, he aims to be a good bird photographer and has created a website with bird photos as proof. He hopes not too many clients of his consulting company read this blog, as they will doubt his dedication to providing consulting services related to China`s chemical industry. Whenever he wants to shock other birders, he tells them his (indoor) cats can distinguish several warblers by taste.