Like any other group of animals, birds can be herbivorous or carnivorous. Many meat-eating birds feast on lizards, small mammals, and even smaller birds. This list examines 15 species of birds that eat other birds as part of their diet.
You may be surprised to discover that not all the birds on this list are birds-of-prey. There are many other kinds of birds that consume their avian relatives. Keep reading to learn about 15 bird species that are known to make a meal of other birds.
15 Birds that Eat Other Birds
1. Red-tailed Hawk
Scientific name: Buteo jamaicensis
Throughout the lower 48 states, the Red-tailed Hawk is one of the most common raptors. Most of their diet consists of small mammals like rabbits, squirrels, rodents and even snakes. However they do also eat birds. While tiny birds aren’t worth chasing, medium to large sized birds are such as bobwhites, pheasants, blackbirds and starlings.
Red-tailed Hawks are easy to hear based on their call, a scream that sounds like “keeeyaaa.”
2. Cooper’s Hawk
Scientific name: Accipiter cooperii
Cooper’s Hawks are a smaller species of raptor that lives in the lower 48 states. They live year-round in all but the northern states and are the smallest hawk in the U.S.
They are known to hunt lizards, small mammals, and the nestlings of other birds. If they spot an unattended nest, they’ll fly down and steal a chick from the nest. Cooper’s Hawks are also often seen in backyards stalking bird feeders for their next meal. Mourning Doves tend to be their favorites.
3. Barred Owl
Scientific name: Strix varia
Barred Owls’ unmistakable call of “who-cooks-for-you? who-cooks-for-you-all?” can be heard from across a forest and a backyard. They are nocturnal hunters which consume mice, rats, and birds.
Most birds are fair game, up to about the size of a grouse or chicken. These owls sit quietly on a perch, scanning the ground below for their prey with their sharp eyesight and hearing. They love to hang out around in forests near streams and lakes.
4. Red-bellied Woodpecker
Scientific name: Melanerpes carolinus
Red-bellied Woodpeckers are only occasional bird-eaters. Most of their diet stems from insects and nuts. Like most woodpeckers, they spend the majority of the day pecking for insects in the bark of trees.
However, they’ll gladly peck into unhatched eggs from nearby unattended nests.
5. Bald Eagle
Scientific name: Haliaeetus leucocephalus
Bald Eagles are the national bird of the United States. They were once seen year-round throughout most of the United States, but development and DDT poisoning reduced their numbers. After recent conservation efforts, their numbers have recovered significantly.
Fish are the main staple of a Bald Eagles diet, however they will supplement with many other food sources. This may include amphibians, reptiles, crabs, small mammals and birds. If they target birds, it is often shorebirds and waterfowl such as gulls, geese, loons and ducks.
6. Blue Jay
Scientific name: Cyanocitta cristata
Blue Jays are nearly impossible to miss with their bright blue feathers. This species lives east of the Rocky Mountains year-round. They prefer open woodlands and forests, where they can forage along the ground for acorns and invertebrates.
However, these noisy critters are also known to steal eggs from the nests of smaller birds. Sometimes, they’ll even kill nestlings.
7. Gray Catbird
Scientific name: Dumetella carolinensis
If you live in the eastern United States and hear a “meow” coming from the interior of a leafy tree, it might not be a cat. Gray Catbirds are known for their call that sounds like a meow. They are loud as well as competitive.
Scientists have witnessed Gray Catbirds killing the chicks and destroying the eggs in rival bird species’ nests. They choose to attack species like the Chipping Sparrow and Eastern Wood-Pewee.
8. Common Grackle
Scientific name: Quiscalus quiscula
The Common Grackle is a rather notorious bird found throughout most of the eastern and midwestern United States. Gregarious and noisy, these birds flock in huge groups where they search for insects, invertebrates and small frogs and lizards. They also eat chicks from other birds’ nests and can easily peck into eggs.
Often considered a “bully-bird” for their ability to show up at bird feeders in large groups, hog all the food and scare away smaller birds.
9. Great Horned Owl
Scientific name: Bubo virginianus
The Great Horned Owl is one of the easiest to owls to recognize. With its tall ear tufts and piercing yellow eyes, it is often used to represent owls in media, as well as being one of the most common species found in the U.S.
Great Horned Owls are fearsome predators that catch and kill nearly any kind of prey, but mainly small to medium sized mammals and birds. They have been known to eat ducks, starlings, doves, crows, waterfowl, hawks and even other owls.
10. American Kestrel
Scientific name: Falco sparverius
This petite raptor is the smallest raptor in the United States. Despite its delicate size, it’s a fierce predator known especially for preying on sparrows. Another name for it is actually the Sparrow Hawk.
American Kestrels live throughout most of the United States, where they prefer to hunt for prey in open landscapes like grasslands and fields.
11. Turkey Vulture
Scientific name: Cathartes aura
The Turkey Vulture is the avian trash collector of the sky. This bird feasts on carrion such as roadkill or abandoned carcasses killed by terrestrial predators. They have a sense of smell keener than most birds and even other animals – they can smell a carcass from up to 5 miles away.
Carrion can be any kind of animal – mammal, reptile, or bird. Turkey Vultures aren’t above snacking on other species of birds.
12. Great Black-backed Gull
Scientific name: Larus marinus
This seagull is the largest seagull species in the entire world, with a wingspan about five feet across. They have a large dose of attitude as well. These gulls eat pretty much anything, including other birds. They steal food from others, pilfer eggs from nests, and even eat adult birds. Their favorite prey species are puffins and grebes.
Black-backed Gulls breed in Newfoundland, but can also be seen year-round in Nova Scotia and off the coast of New England. They may travel further down the east coast in the winter.
13. American Crow
Scientific name: Corvus brachyrhynchos
Intelligent and well-traveled, the American Crow lives throughout the United States for most of the year. Populations also live in Alaska and Canada. Crows are one of the few species of birds that use tools to find food and entertain themselves.
They are notorious for stealing chicks from other birds’ nests. Their “caw” is impossible to miss.
14. Northern Shrike
Scientific name: Lanius borealis
American birders will see the Northern Shrike during the winter months, when it descends into the northern half of the United States from the far Arctic reaches of Canada. They are entirely carnivorous and among small mammals, reptiles, insects and amphibian, will also eat other birds.
Their preferred method of hunting is to stalk other birds in bushes. Typically this is small birds like sparrows or finches. Like other shrikes, it impales its prey on sharp objects like barbed wire or sharp twigs to save for later.
15. Common Raven
Scientific name: Corvus corax
One of the most intelligent birds in the animal kingdom, the Common Raven is a year-round inhabitant of the American west and the Appalachian mountains. Clever and adaptable, this bird will pester other birds and prey on small ones. It eats pretty much anything and is a skilled flyer.