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Deer Eat Birds

By   /  August 12, 2013  /  1 Comment

Sometimes cows eat rabbits too! Here’s a look at some unusual animal eating behavior and why they choose to eat things we wouldn’t have imagined for them. If your livestock are eating strange things, you’ll learn why here.

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Birds aren't the only creatures deer might eat.  Here one dines on a bunny.

Birds aren’t the only creatures deer might eat. Here one dines on a bunny.

For years, visitors to the Scottish island of Rum were puzzled to find the bodies of Manx shearwater chicks missing their heads, wingbones and leg bones.  Then a few years ago, a hunter saw a red deer chewing on a chick.  Scientists used that sighting to give them clues, and now it seems clear that the deer are eating parts of the chicks to give them the calcium they need to grow strong antlers.

This isn’t the only instance of supposed vegetarians eating meat.  There are bird-eating sheep in the Shetland islands. In the U.S. the miniature video cameras biologists use to monitor nests are revealing that weasels, mice, ground squirrels, and white tail deer eat both eggs and birds.  Canadian bird researchers capturing songbirds in mist nets were astonished to see deer eating the birds right out of the nets.

This steer was part of a trial to see the effects of grazing on phosphorous deficient soils.  The herd decided to solve the problem by eating dead rabbits found in the pasture for the phosphorous in their bones.

This steer was part of a trial to see the effects of grazing on phosphorous deficient soils. The herd decided to solve the problem by eating dead rabbits found in the pasture for the phosphorous in their bones.

It all makes sense when we think about how animals choose what to eat.  When they experience a deficiency, such as calcium or phosphorous, animals experiment with new foods.  If they find something that solves the problem, they continue to eat it.  Both eggs and nestlings are good sources of protein, fats, vitamins and minerals and they’re just right for a grazer who’s missing a little something in its diet.

So, how concerned should we be about the impact of omnivorous herbivores?  It seems that they aren’t eating enough birds or eggs to harm the population. Wyoming Game and Fish chief biologist Reg Rothwell says, “It’s not a huge problem, and it’s probably been going on for eons.”

Caution, the video here shows a deer eating a bird in someone’s backyard.  When you watch it, like the lady videotaping, you might say OMG! OMG!

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About the author

editor and contributor

Kathy worked with the Bureau of Land Management for 12 years before founding Livestock for Landscapes in 2004. Her twelve years at the agency allowed her to pursue her goal of helping communities find ways to live profitably AND sustainably in their environment. She has been researching and working with livestock as a land management tool for over a decade. When she's not helping farmers, ranchers and land managers on-site, she writes articles, and books, and edits videos to help others turn their livestock into landscape managers.

1 Comment

  1. Kim Hayes says:

    Thanks for the great newsletter.
    Just a quick heads up, your videos do not operate on an iPad which is considered a mobile deice.

    Thanks again,
    Kim

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