The idea that birds eat other birds may seem unnatural, however, many birds in fact eat their fellow birds, eggs, and their chicks.
Owls, falcons, hawks, and other birds of prey are commonly found seeking out sources of protein for their carnivorous diets, using their sharp talons and beaks to tear flesh.
Interestingly, there are also species of omnivorous birds that also eat other birds, even if they lack sharp, curved anatomy.
Here are 26 birds that eat other birds:
- American Crow
- American Raven
- Cattle Egret
- American Kestrel
- Cooper’s Hawk
- Eurasian Sparrowhawk
- Sharp-Shinned Hawk
- Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl
- Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl
- Bald Eagle
- Peregrine Falcon
- Great Black-Backed Gull
- Herring Gull
- Great Blue Heron
- Greater Roadrunner
- Marabou Stork
- Snowy Sheathbill
- Southern Skua
- Southern Grey Shrike
- Grey Butcherbird
- Striated Caracara
- Common Grackle
- Blue Jay
- Red-Headed Woodpecker
While this list is extensive, some related species and subspecies also eat other birds. They are found in areas where the food and water supply is ample with adequate places for breeding, shelter, and raising their young.
1. American Crow
Scientific name: Corvus brachyrhynchos
Diet: omnivore – birds, small mammals, insects, earthworms, snakes, eggs, seeds, grain, fruit, human garbage, carrion
Feeding Behavior: opportunistic, forager, scavenger, hunter, raider, tools, social
American crows are omnivorous and will eat nearly anything including fruits, meats, and human garbage. These are also intelligent and social food gatherers. They may work alone, in pairs, or in family or flock groups to distract, steal, and hunt food.
American crows are found all over North America. They are seen in variable landscapes such as open fields, forests, lawns, parking lots, roadsides, towns and cities, and garbage dumps.
Crows are most often seen foraging as they walk on the ground, probing the surface and lifting sticks and stones for food sources. They will also stand in shallow waters to hunt for fish.
Most often crows will scavenge and eat dead birds, but if the opportunity arises they will eat bird eggs and kill nestlings and their parents.
When they hunt after ground-based prey, such as grasshoppers, they run, hop, and fly erratically to catch them. They will also perch at elevations and survey the area for opportunities, such as unguarded nests with eggs or hatchlings.
American crows demonstrate intelligence to obtain food. This includes dropping foods with protective shells, such as clams, turtles, eggs, and walnuts onto a hard surface while flying to crack them open.
2. American Raven
Scientific name: Corvus corax
Diet: omnivore – birds, eggs, and chicks, berries, carrion, insects, arthropods, small mammals, vegetation, garbage
Feeding Behavior: scavenger, social hunter
Ravens and crows are often confused as the same, but they are different birds. Ravens are found over most of the northern hemisphere in a variety of habitats. They live in mixed forests, fields, tundra, farms, beaches, islands, and so on.
Ravens are very intelligent, capable of problem-solving, and will eat nearly anything that they can get a hold of.
This includes carrion, small animals, other birds such as pigeons, eggs, and chicks, insects, scorpions, fish, feces, grains, vegetation, pets food, and human garbage. Ravens will follow people and other birds if they think it will lead them to food.
They perform amazing acrobatics in the air, capable of rolls, wing-tucked dives, and dropping objects mid-air and then catching them before they reach the ground. If they find large amounts of food, they will cache it for consumption later.
Although they primarily live solo or paired lives, they will collaboratively hunt larger prey in larger groups.
3. Cattle Egret
Scientific name: Bubulcus ibis
Diet: carnivore – birds, bats, insects, invertebrates, small rodents, scorpions, lizards, crustaceans, frogs, salamanders
Feeding Behavior: opportunistic, forager, hunter
The carnivorous cattle egret has a broad diet that consists of mostly insects yet is flexible to include other occasional foods such as birds and small rodents.
These migratory birds are native to Africa but also found in North America, Central America, and South America.
They can be seen on farms, in marshes, along highways, and open areas such as fields, pastures, and lawns. They will inhabit aquatic areas such as marshes and flooded fields.
Cattle egrets earned their name for their relationship with cattle and other grazing animals, sitting on their backs and eating flies and other insects. These social birds live in colonies of hundreds with their own and other species of birds.
As the insects are flushed out from the ground by grazing animals, the egrets catch and eat them. They have also been seen following tractors and lawnmowers, eating the disturbed ground insects.
As opportunistic feeders, egrets will occasionally eat birds such as warblers.
4. American Kestrel
Scientific name: Falco sparverius
Diet: carnivore – birds, bats, insects, invertebrates, small rodents, scorpions, lizards, crayfish
Feeding Behavior: hunter (mid-flight, perched, hovering), forager, social
Kestrels are the smallest and most unusually-colorful raptors in North America. They are also found throughout the western hemisphere, including Alaska, Canada, and South America.
Kestrels are most often found in open areas that offer nesting cavities and ample perches.
American kestrels are the only raptor, or birds of prey, that can hover mid-flight and capture prey in the air such as birds, bats, and insects.
They catch them with their sharp-taloned back feet and then administer a killing bite to the head of the prey with a sharp, curved beak.
Kestrels prefer to perch to scan an area, it will then hover in the air and then dive down and snatch it. Typically, they carry the prey back to a perch to consume it.
These birds will also forage the ground for meat sources. They will hunt and forage in social groups for prey such as insects, voles, and invertebrates, with related and unrelated kestrels.
In regards to birds, songbirds are the most common ones they eat, but they will eat other birds up to the size of a quail.
5. Cooper’s Hawk
Scientific name: Accipiter cooperii
Diet: carnivore – primarily medium-sized birds; small mammals, lizards, small reptiles
Feeding Behavior: stealth hunt
Cooper’s hawks primarily eat other birds such as robins, flickers, and jays. However, they will also consume small mammals, lizards, and reptiles if they are available.
These hawks hunt stealthily moving from perch to perch in dense cover. Then listen and survey, diving with a burst of speed to catch prey. They also cruise low over the ground, hiding behind shrubbery to catch prey by surprise.
Cooper’s hawks are birds of prey that use sharp, curved, talons and beaks to pierce flesh. They squeeze repeatedly or will drown the prey until it dies before they consume it. They eat up to 12% of their body weight daily.
6. Eurasian Sparrowhawk
Scientific name: Accipiter nisus
Diet: carnivore – primarily small woodland birds
Feeding Behavior: stealth hunter
Eurasian sparrowhawks are found in many habitats, such as urban areas, but are common in wooded areas of Europe, Africa, and Asia.
They hunt small woodland birds by surprise attack, within close proximity. They often swiftly swoop down from perches or low and fast from behind hedges and thick vegetation.
These birds eat other birds using their small, yet curved sharp beaks to pick their prey’s feathers and pull them apart.
Male birds are smaller and therefore capture smaller bird prey such as sparrows, finches, and tits. Females are larger, catching birds such as starlings, rock pigeons, and thrushes.
7. Sharp-Shinned Hawk
Scientific name: Accipiter striatus
Diet: carnivore – primarily birds; rodents, bats, squirrels, lizards, snakes, insects
Feeding Behavior: hunter, stealth, live prey manipulation
Sharp-shinned hawks are found throughout the North, Central, and South Americas typically in mixed or coniferous forests, open deciduous woodlands, and thickets.
They typically feed on other small birds such as sparrows, but also eat robins and birds up to the size of a quail.
To hunt, they fly low over open areas or hide behind slight land elevations to snatch up birds. They will also hunt along the edges of woodland and even at bird feeders in the winter.
Sharp-shinned hawks have demonstrated that they have a dexterous ability when using their talons. They can remove other birds from traps and manipulate them while alive before killing them.
They also aggressively play-fight in the air, badgering raptors such as hawks and eagles, larger than them.
8. Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl
Scientific name: Glaucidium brasilianum
Diet: carnivore – birds, hatchlings, insects, small mammals, reptiles, rodents, scorpions, lizards
Feeding Behavior: hunter, raider
The Ferruginous pygmy-owl eats a varied carnivorous diet depending on the region it is living in. They are commonly found in parts of Arizona and Texas, Central America, and South America in semi-open wooded areas.
Their diet includes birds, insects, small mammals, reptiles, rodents, scorpions, and lizards.
The Ferruginous pygmy-owl is a crepuscular hunter, active at dawn and dusk.
This species relies more on sight than sound as they search for prey from a perch. Once a meal is located, it then quickly darts out and strikes the prey. This owl also will raid nest cavities for hatchlings.
9. Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl
Scientific name: Bubo lacteus
Diet: carnivore – primarily other birds; small mammals, insects
Feeding Behavior: hunter
Verreaux’s eagle-owl is also referred to as the milky eagle owl or giant eagle owl and it is a top predator in the raptor family.
Their diet consists of a significant number of other large birds such as herons, crows, and ducks. They also eat smaller mammals and hunt insects on the wing.
These eagle-owls are nocturnal hunters but will hunt during the day if the prey is available. They perch to survey the area, and then quickly glide down to snatch prey once spotted.
These birds are found in sub-Saharan Africa, primarily in the eastern and southern parts of wooded habitats. Most commonly they are spotted in rocky outcrops and cliffs but will live in semi-arid areas, grasslands, and farmlands.
10. Bald Eagle
Scientific name: Haliaeetus leucocephalus
Diet: carnivore – primarily other birds and fish; mammals, carrion
Feeding Behavior: hunter, forager, steal
The carnivorous bald eagle relies on a heavy diet of other birds such as gulls and geese as well as fish. They will also eat small mammals and carrion, and steal food from other birds if the opportunity arises.
Bald eagles look for food by using their excellent eyesight to scan from above on a high perch. They can then dive at speeds as fast as 100 miles per hour and snatch the prey.
To catch fish, the bald eagle grabs them from the surface of the water with its talons or their beaks. The prey is ripped apart with their sharp talons and beak and consumed.
These magnificently large birds are found in most of North America, typically within a couple of miles from bodies of water.
Scientific name: Falco columbarius
Diet: carnivore – primarily birds; large insects, bas, small mammals
Feeding Behavior: hunter, social pairs
Merlins are carnivorous raptors that are found in openings and edges of forests, grasslands, coastal areas, along rivers, and towns and cities in North America. Subspecies can also be found in Eurasia.
They eat primarily other birds ranging in sizes such as pigeons, small ducks, sparrows, shorebirds, and songbirds. Merlins typically catch their prey at high speed, midair attacks at a horizontal position or from underneath chasing them upwards until they cannot escape.
Merlins will work in pairs to catch prey in large flocks. One will flush the flock out, and the other one comes in to catch them.
12. Peregrine Falcon
Scientific name: Falco peregrinus
Diet: carnivore – primarily birds; bats, squirrels, rats, reptiles, insects
Feeding Behavior: hunter, diving attacks
Peregrine falcons are birds of prey that have a diet of primarily other birds, including larger ones such as pigeons, ducks, shorebirds, geese, gulls, and mourning doves. They also hunt small mammals, insects, and reptiles for protein sources.
These falcons have impressive speed when targeting prey. It flies high in the sky to survey below with keen eyesight. Once a target is spotted it closes its wings and nose dives, called a stoop, gaining speed over 180 miles per hour.
It then knocks the prey out of the sky and then it finishes killing it with its curved, sharp talons and beak.
Peregrine falcons are found all over the world except Antarctica, living amongst mountain ranges, rivers, and coastlines. They migrate over long distances between breeding and wintering grounds.
13. Great Black-Backed Gull
Scientific name: Larus marinus
Diet: omnivore – birds, chicks, eggs, insects, rodents, fish, berries
Feeding Behavior: opportunistic, harass and steal, raider, hunter (mid-flight, water, land), forager
Great black-backed gulls are opportunistic feeders that will raid bird nests and harass and steal food from other animals. Adult birds that are often attacked and killed by gulls are the Atlantic puffin, herring gull, common tern, common murre, and horned grebe.
This “king” bird is the largest gull in the world, that aggressively and powerfully dominates over others for food sources.
They also eat chicks, carrion, fish, crustaceans, insects, rodents, and berries. They will catch insects mid-flight, plunge into water, and snatch food from the surface of the water and the land.
Great black-backed gulls live primarily along the eastern coast of Northern America, often at marine sites such as beaches, fishing piers, and estuaries. In the winter, these gulls will move slightly inland and forage for food, including at garbage dumps.
14. Herring Gull
Scientific name: Larus argentatus
Diet: omnivore – fish, mollusks, crustaceans, mammals, berries, eggs, insects, marine worms, carrion
Feeding Behavior: opportunistic, harass and steal, raider, hunter (mid-flight, water, land), forager
Similar to the great black-backed gull, the herring gull is an opportunistic bird that will raid nests and steal food to eat from other animals. They will eat other seabirds ranging in size from chick to adult.
These gulls hunt mid-flight, as well as on water and land. In particular, herring gulls will feed on schools of fish that have been driven to the surface by whales.
Herring gulls are found along marine coasts in bays, piers, and beaches and near the coasts of large lakes. They live far north in New England and southern Alaska and far south in Mexico, Panama, and the West Indies.
15. Great Blue Heron
Scientific name: Ardea herodias
Diet: carnivore – primarily fish; birds, insects, amphibians, crustaceans, small mammals
Feeding Behavior: still-stalker, uses bait
The great blue heron eats a variety of proteins, but they are primarily piscivores, consuming fish as a large part of their diet.
These herons spend the majority of the day waiting still for prey to come close enough. Once it does, they swiftly grab it with their powerful bills.
Interestingly, herons will use natural and manmade baits to lure in prey such as fish and other birds. This could be leaves, insects, earthworms, grass, pieces of bread, bits of styrofoam, and so on.
They pick bait and let it float or sit close to them. When food wanders close, they grab it.
This heron is most often found across North America and Central America near shores of open water and in wetlands. They can also be found in the Caribbean and the Galápagos Islands.
16. Greater Roadrunner
Scientific name: Geococcyx californianus
Diet: carnivore – birds, insects, reptiles, rodents, arthropods, lizards, small mammals
Feeding Behavior: speed and pounce, bash prey against rocks
The greater roadrunner is found most commonly in the southwestern U.S. and Mexico, the Sonoran Desert, and Texas brushlands, in habitats with open ground, dry grassland, and dense low cover.
These birds use speed to get close to prey. Then they pounce or jump to catch and eat other birds, small mammals, rodents, insects, and more.
If the prey fights back, they will smash it against a hard surface, typically rocks that break the prey’s bones. This kills it, and makes it more flexible for consumption and digestion.
17. Marabou Stork
Scientific name: Leptoptilos crumeniferus
Diet: carnivore – birds, carrion, fish, waste
Feeding Behavior: opportunistic, scavenger, hunter
Marabou stork long-legged and long-necked birds are native to Sub-Saharan Africa inhabiting areas such as savannas, grasslands, riverbanks, lake shores, swamps, and receding pools.
They are one of the largest flying birds and the largest stork species in the world.
Their carnivorous diet primarily comes from scavenging efforts and they eat carrion, landfill waste, and fish in shallow pools of water. They will stalk grass fires and catch animals feeling from them.
These storks also hunt and eat birds, frogs, lizards, baby crocodiles, snakes, and other small animals.
18. Snowy Sheathbill
Scientific name: Chionis alba
Diet: omnivore – eggs, chicks, animal feces, tapeworms, algae, carrion, human refuse, regurgitated krill and fish
Feeding Behavior: primarily kleptoparasite; scavenger
Snowy sheathbills spend the majority of their day hunting for food to fulfill their omnivorous diet. They are kleptoparasites, primarily stealing to get food.
Snowy sheathbills often steal from penguins. These birds will even eat tapeworms from penguins’ feces and their regurgitated krill and fish. They also eat bird eggs, chicks, carrion, and human refuse.
This bird is found in Antarctica, South Georgia, Scotia Arc, South Orkneys, South African territory, Crozet Islands, Kerguelen Islands, and Heard Island.
While they are often found near water, they do not have webbed feet. Their dexterous toes help them to scavenge surfaces (and steal) for food.
19. Southern Skua
Scientific name: Stercorarius skua
Diet: carnivore – eggs and chicks, fish, aquatic animals, carrion, human trash
Feeding Behavior: kleptoparasite, attacks mid-air to steal, opportunistic, social teams
Southern skuas are another kleptoparasitic bird like the sheathbills. However, they often steal by attacking mid-air to force other birds to drop their kills. They may also team up with other skuas to overtake other animals to steal food.
These birds eat other seabirds’ eggs and chicks, krill, fish, squid, carrion, and human garbage. Skuas have been seen following ships at sea to eat garbage that is thrown over into the water.
Southern skuas are migratory moving from Antarctic coasts into the coasts of the Pacific, Indian, and Atlantic oceans.
20. Southern Grey Shrike
Scientific name: Lanius meridionalis
Diet: carnivore – small birds, insects, rodents, reptiles
Feeding Behavior: hunter, impalement, social pairs
The southern grey shrike eats small vertebrates and large invertebrates such as small birds, insects, rodents, and reptiles. To catch prey, they perch on an elevated spot in a tree, on a utility pole, or a wire.
They prefer open country in sem-deserts, farmlands, tundra, or near forested areas and are found primarily in the Iberian Peninsula and Southeastern France. These birds live in isolated pairs, sharing hunting territory.
Southern grey shrikes move from perch to perch and once they find prey they drop-pounce from their location. These birds can hover over the victim and chase it.
Once the shrike grabs it, it uses its beaks to crack the prey’s skull or spinal cord. If the prey is fighting back, they also use stumps, thorns, barbed wire, and so on to impale the prey.
At this point, the deceased animal is easier to tear apart and is consumed over several days.
21. Grey Butcherbird
Scientific name: Cracticus torquatus
Diet: omnivore -primary flesh of other birds; lizards and insects, fruits, seeds
Feeding Behavior: hunter, impalement
Grey butcherbirds are like shrikes in that they often kill prey by impaling them on a thorn or other piercing object.
They eat small animals such as birds, insects, and lizards. They also eat fruits and seeds and will cache food or leave it on a spike for later consumption.
They get their name from the fact that they hang the prey from a spike and then hack away at it like a butcher to break off pieces of flesh.
Even though they are not raptors, they have a strong frontal vision and hooked beaks like them. This keen vision allows them to preach and locate prey from high distances.
These birds are found in different habitats such as arid, semi-arid, and temperate areas, across Australia. They produce songs much like those of other songbirds, such as the magpie.
Scientific name: Pica hudsonia
Diet: omnivore – eggs and chicks, small mammals, invertebrates, fruits, berries, grains, human scraps
Feeding Behavior: raid and steal, forager, scavenger, social attacks
Magpies are most often found in temperate areas such as those in western North America, Europe, and Asia.
They live in grasslands, on the edge of forests, and in meadows, looking for food in open areas, but sheltering in dense forests near a water source.
In the summer, magpies eat primarily invertebrates such as beetles, caterpillars, worms, and flies. Breeding season diets include high protein sources such as other birds’ eggs and chicks and small mammals.
In the winter, magpies eat more vegetation such as grains and berries, and other scavenged food.
Magpies primarily forage, using their bill to flip over materials on the ground. Their bills have sharp edges that allow them to cut flesh, dig, and pick up items.
However, they will also follow predators and other birds (such as pigeons) to raid and steal eggs and chicks or pick up remnants of food. They will work with other magpies to peck at other animals’ legs to injure or kill them or steal their food supply.
These birds also cache and hoard food by burying it in a hole that they drilled in the ground with their bill. They then cover the hole with a stone, leaf, or grass.
23. Striated Caracara
Scientific name: Phalcoboenus australis
Diet: carnivore – eggs and chicks, invertebrates, crustaceans, other bird and sheep carcasses
Feeding Behavior: scavenger, opportunistic, hunts small or weakened animals, share-feed with vultures
Striated caracaras are found on South American islands that have populations of seabirds and seals, such as the Falklands. They eat a carnivorous diet of seabirds’ eggs and chicks, offal, bird and sheep carcasses, invertebrates, and crustaceans.
They primarily scavenge for food, and often watch for vultures, and eat beside them. Vultures tear apart flesh, making it easier for the striated caracaras to consume the innards.
These birds will also pounce on prey, flying or running along the ground until they can overtake it. They tend to prey on small or weakened animals and will attack newborn lambs causing a problem for local sheep herders.
24. Common Grackle
Scientific name: Quiscalus quiscula
Diet: omnivore – eggs, chicks, birds, seeds, human garbage, invertebrates, small rodents, fish
Feeding Behavior: forager, hunter, raid and steal
The common grackle is found throughout North America often in open woodlands, marshes, suburbs, parks, and fields. They are often seen where other blackbirds and starlings inhabit.
As omnivores, common grackles have a varied diet. They attack and eat other birds and their eggs and hatchlings. They eat seeds, garbage, invertebrates, and small rodents.
Grackles attack by biting, pecking, scratching, and aggressively flying toward prey. They follow farm equipment to forage for grubs and seeds from the soil.
25. Blue Jay
Scientific name: Cyanocitta cristata
Diet: omnivore – primarily insects, nuts, and seeds; berries, wasp larvae, frogs, eggs and chicks, weakened or dead adult birds
Feeding Behavior: forager, raid and steal, hunter
The blue jay is a beautiful blue bird that is familiar to people living in the eastern and central United States and parts of Canada. They are found in deciduous and coniferous forests as well as in wooded residential areas.
While their diet is primarily insects, nuts, and seeds, they will raid nests for eggs and chicks and eat deceased or dying birds.
Blue jays use their feet to hold items while they peck them open. They also store food in caches for consumption at a later time.
26. Red-Headed Woodpecker
Scientific name: Melanerpes erythrocephalus
Diet: omnivore -primarily seeds, nuts, and berries; eggs and chicks, birds, mice, insects
Feeding Behavior: mid-flight, opportunistic, forager, raid and steal
Red-headed woodpeckers are widely distributed throughout the United States and southern parts of Canada. They are found in orchards, groves, and around large shade trees. Ample food availability such as acorns determines their habitats.
These birds primarily eat seeds, corn, nuts, berries, and other fruits. However, they occasionally raid birds’ nests for eggs and chicks.
They may also eat adult birds and mice if the opportunity arises. Red-headed woodpeckers can eat insects mid-flight by catching them on the wing.
To search for prey, these birds fly out from perches, climb tree trunks, and walk and hop on the ground. They cache food sources in holes and crevices for winter feeding.
Many kinds of birds eat other birds as a part of their diet.
Some are carnivorous, capturing prey, and ripping them apart with sharp talons and beaks. These include birds such as the American kestrel, Cooper’s hawk, and the bald eagle.
Yet, other birds are omnivorous, eating other birds by raiding nests, catching prey mid-flight, and using tools such as thorns. Examples of these are blue jays, herring gulls, and grey butcherbirds.
These types of birds are often found in habitats that offer them an ample food supply.