A Black Vulture eating an animal carcass.

Discover 16 Birds That Eat Dead Animals (A Full Guide!)

Do you know any birds that eat dead animals? If so, you’re not alone. In fact, there are 16 different species of birds that have been documented consuming dead animal flesh, and they’re all fascinating in their own way. In this article, we will explore the different bird species, and provide a full guide on how to identify them.

Birds That Eat Dead Animals


A Griffon Vulture perched on a wall looking for carrion (dead animals).
Image by Christel SAGNIEZ from Pixabay

Do vultures feed on dead animals (carrion)? Vultures are scavengers and will eat anything they can find. They will feed on small rodents, fruit, reptiles, amphibians, insects, carrion (dead animals), garbage or anything else that is edible. Vultures have a keen sense of smell, which helps them locate their food sources.

Related Post: 18 Facts About Turkey Vultures That Will Shock You!


A Common Buzzard perched on a post surveying the area.
Image by Thorsten Schulze from Pixabay

Buzzards will feed on carrion, dead animals that are decomposing. This is not the only food source for these birds as they will also prey and eat other small mammals such as mice, rabbits, voles, shrews and fish. Buzzards live in diverse habitats around the world, but it is rare to find them near an urban area.


A California condor flying.
Photo by Jeffrey Eisen on Unsplash

Condors are large birds of prey, found mainly in North and South America. They have a wingspan that can reach up to 10 feet! Condors eat mostly carrion or dead animals, but they will also occasionally hunt live prey. Condors have incredible eyesight and can find carrion from miles away, and they also can detect the scent from the air. Once a condor finds a carcass, it usually begins to feed on it immediately by tearing off pieces with its beak and then swallowing them.

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Crested Caracaras

Crested Caracaras are a bird that can be found in Central and South America. They have a unique crest of feathers on their head, which they raise during displays to other caracaras. They are scavengers, which means they will eat dead animals. Not only that, but they also eat live prey including insects, frogs, lizards and small mammals like mice and squirrels.​​​​​​​


A Bald Eagle searching for food.
Photo by Richard Lee on Unsplash

Eagles are magnificent creatures of nature that soar through the sky with ease. These birds of prey live all over the world, including North America, Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia. Eagles feed on small mammals such as rabbits or hares; reptiles like snakes or lizards; other birds; fish; insects; carrion (dead animals); garbage (mostly meat scraps) found in dumpsites or at roadside​​​​​​​.

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A Coopers Hawk perched on a fence.
Photo by Jim Strasma on Unsplash

Hawks are opportunistic predators. A lot of people think that hawks only eat live prey and never touch anything dead or rotting. This is not true. If a hawk has the opportunity to eat something dead, it will take it if there are no other options available (live prey). Hawks can often be seen circling a dead animal before landing and tearing it apart with their powerful talons. Many hawks feed on insects such as locusts or grasshoppers, which live in swarms during the summer months.​​​​​​​

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Kites are scavengers, not predators. They are typically seen in areas where there is an abundance of dead animals, such as at the site of a roadkill or animal carcass. They will also feed on live prey such as small mammals, and invertebrates.  If a kite sees a dead animal from the sky, it will fly to get it and then bring it back to its nest. If the bird doesn’t find anything after flying for a while, they go hunting for food by themselves or with other kites until they find something.​​​​​​​

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Northern Harrier

Northern Harriers are a bird of prey that live throughout North America. They eat almost anything they can find, including small birds, rodents, small mammals, reptiles, insects and frogs. Carrion is also on the menu for these predators. Northern Harriers have been seen eating snakes from time to time as well as catching them in their talons before they drop them onto the ground where they finish off the reptile by either swallowing it whole or ripping it apart with their beaks.​​​​​​​


A Ural Owl perched on tree scanning the are for prey.
Image by Erik Karits from Pixabay

Owls are famous for their incredible hunting skills. They can fly silently and quickly through the air, and most owls have good night vision that allows them to hunt at night. An owl’s beak is not designed for chewing or tearing food into small pieces; instead, it grabs prey and swallows it whole, sometimes crushing its bones in the process. When an owl eats carrion (dead animals), it may need to vomit up pellets of indigestible material.

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Osprey is one of the most common birds found in the Pacific Northwest. They are known for their exceptional vision and amazing agility in the air. This bird of prey is quite unusual because it feeds primarily on live fish, but sometimes eats fish that have just died or dying. On occasion, an osprey will land on a pier to pick up some dead bait fish left by fishermen. This allows them to make the catch without ever having to leave their perch.​​​​​​​

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American Crows are omnivores and will eat anything they can find. They are opportunistic feeders, meaning that they will take advantage of whatever food source is available to them at the time. American crows will eat insects, earthworms, various seeds, fruit, birds eggs and even carrion if it has the chance. The most interesting thing about these animals is their intelligence- an ability that allows them to solve problems quickly in order to get what they want or need for survival​​​​​​​.

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A Canada Jay perched on a tree branch in the snow.
Image by Tomasz Proszek from Pixabay

Jays are omnivores, which means they will eat almost anything. They have been observed eating insects, especially caterpillars, beetles, grasshoppers and others; also eats spiders, snails, birds’ eggs (occasionally), small rodents (rarely), arthropods (occasionally), berries (frequently) carrion (occasionally). Jays can become pests of grain crops because they eat seed-heads or young plants before the seeds mature.​​​​​​​

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Ravens are a common bird found throughout the world. They live in every habitat, from desert to tundra, and eat a wide range of insects, rodents, lizards, frogs and eggs and young of other birds. In addition to these natural food sources, ravens also frequently eats carrion and garbage. Ravens have strong beaks for ripping flesh, as well as claws for tearing open rotten or scavenging carcasses left by predators such as wolves or bears.​​​​​​​

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An alert Greater Roadrunner perched on a rock
Photo by Dulcey Lima on Unsplash

The Roadrunner is a ground bird in the cuckoo family that inhabits the southwestern United States and Mexico. It lives in deserts, grasslands, chaparral, sagebrush plains and other open country. They are not only opportunistic feeders, but they also eat what they can find, which includes; snakes, lizards, insects, eggs and baby birds. The last thing they will ever eat is carrion (dead animals).

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Gulls are not picky eaters. They will feed on anything from rotting fish to garbage. This is why they are commonly found scavenging for food in towns and cities, especially during the winter months when there isn’t much else available to them. Gulls can be seen perched along lakeshores or inland rivers where they watch the water’s surface closely for signs of fish, frogs, or even rodents. Gulls will also prey on small birds if they have the opportunity to do so.

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Skua Gull

A Skua Gull foraging near the seaside for food.
Image by minka2507 from Pixabay

Skuas are a type of seabird that can be found in the Arctic and Antarctic. They’re often called seagulls, but they’re not related to them at all. Skuas are predatory birds, which means they hunt for food instead of eating plants like other types of birds do. They have sharp, hooked bills and thick feathers to help them survive in cold waters. Their favorite food is fish but they will eat anything! This includes dead animals like seals or other birds that were killed by another animal or injured animals.