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7 Birds That Eat Dead Animals (With Photos)

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While it may be gross to think about, birds are sometimes the garbage collectors of the animal kingdom. Dozens of birds will gladly clean up dead animals from the road or pick apart animals that have met an unfortunate end.

7 Birds That Eat Dead Animals (With Photos) facebook image.

Some of these birds don’t care about what type of animal they’re eating, just that they are getting an easy meal. Anyone who has driven on busy roads is familiar with vultures, buzzards, and crows, but some birds on this list may be surprising.

Read on to learn what birds eat dead animals.


1. Vultures

Three Vultures perched on an old tree trunk.
  • Scientific Name: Cathartes aura
  • Length: 3 ft
  • Weight: 30 pounds
  • Wingspan: 5 ft

Vultures are among the most famous eaters of dead animals, and nearly everyone has seen a vulture on the side of the road picking at a dead animal. These birds usually find a dead animal through sight or smell and congregate with other vultures to pull an animal’s body apart for their meal.

Vultures may seem aggressive, but their primary source of food is already dead creatures. These birds won’t attack a human or living animal to get a meal, but instead, wait until something dies before they get their food. However, vultures may bite if they feel threatened, and this bite can cause a transfer of bacteria that can make a human ill.

2. Eagles

A majestic flying bald-head eagle.
  • Scientific Name: Aquila
  • Length: 3 ft
  • Weight: 20 pounds
  • Wingspan: 8 ft

Eagles are the national bird of the United States, and it’s no question why. These birds are fierce and have no problem getting into a fight. Eagles are in nearly every part of North America and feast on everything they can get their claws on.

An eagle’s sources of food include small mammals like rabbits and ferrets. However, an eagle will snatch snakes, turtles, and water-dwelling creatures. When tired, an eagle will happily pick at a dead animal’s body for sustenance and to conserve energy by not hunting.

3. Ravens

A beautiful raven with an open beak perched on a rock.
  • Scientific Name: Corvus corax
  • Length: 3 ft / 0.9 m
  • Weight: 5 lbs. / 2.5 kg
  • Wingspan: 5 ft / 1.5 m

Ravens have little preference for food and will likely eat anything that they can get access to, including eggs from other nests, small birds, and berries they find. Ravens are omnivorous and will also eat roadkill, dead animals, or rotting carcasses when they are hungry.

Ravens are often seen in landfills since this can be an abundant food source for them. These birds will also circle homes and roads, looking for anything that has been hitten by a car. Sometimes, ravens will lie in wait for slow-moving creatures to die after being hit or to pass from old age.

4. Buzzards

A beautiful Buzzard perched on a branch.
  • Scientific Name: Buteo buteo
  • Length: 23 in / 0.5 m
  • Weight: 3 lbs. / 1.3 kg
  • Wingspan: 4.5 ft / 1.3 m

Buzzards are desert-dwelling birds who have no problem eating anything they find, living or dead. These birds have a diet high in rodents like mice but will also eat snakes and reptiles they find roaming the sand.

Buzzards will happily make a meal out of insects and lizards who are seeking refuge from the hot sun in dark crevices and will clear away carcasses by eating whatever remains are left after an animal dies.

5. California Condors

A big majestic California Condor perched on a rock.
  • Scientific Name: Gymnogyps californianus
  • Length: 4 ft / 1.2 m
  • Weight: 33 lbs. / 14.9 kg
  • Wingspan: 10 ft / 3 m

California condors are some of the largest birds that can fly, which is a feat since these birds are so big. These birds are the largest flying birds in North America and can be easily confused with eagles since they have similar color patterns. These birds have similar eating patterns as eagles, too, since both animals will eat the carcasses of larger animals.

California condors have no problem traveling far and wide to feast on the carcasses of pigs, whales that wash up on the coast, cattle lying dead on the pasture, or deer who have been hit by a car.

6. Crows

A beautiful Crow perched on a tree.
  • Scientific Name: Corvus
  • Length: 3 ft / 0.9 m
  • Weight: 5 lbs. / 2.2 kg
  • Wingspan: 5 ft / 1.5 m

Crows are small, mostly black birds that are highly intelligent. These birds will caw to let each other know where to find food or warn others of danger. Although crows will eat dead animals, they usually opt for other food sources first since they have small beaks that have trouble penetrating the skin.

Before dead animals, a crow will eat nearly any scrap left behind by humans or other animals, including fast food items, small insects, frogs, or bats. However, if a dead animal has already been picked at by other animals and there are some remains left, a crow will gladly pick at what it can reach.

7. Seagulls

An adorable Seagull perched on a wooden board.
  • Scientific Name: Larinae
  • Length: 1 ft / 0.3 m
  • Weight: 4 lbs. / 1.8 kg
  • Wingspan: 5 ft / 1.5 m

Seagulls are an unlikely addition to the list of birds that eat dead animals, but these birds are omnivorous and will eat nearly anything when they are hungry. Seagulls will eat other birds if they are big enough to swallow them. These birds will also eat anything dead that has washed ashore, including fish, crabs, crustaceans, or other animals.

Seagulls are famous for eating grains, berries, and other sea debris. Seagulls may even venture far enough onto land to pick at roadkill and rats if they’re close enough to the coast. Some seagulls have been caught sneaking into convenience stores for packaged snacks.

Frequently Asked Questions

You may have many questions about why some birds like to eat dead animals, but these questions can help you get a little clarification.

Do vultures get sick from eating dead animals?

Interestingly, vultures rarely get sick from eating dead animals and will help clean up bad germs from getting to humans and other animals who could get sick. Vultures help make the environment safer and prevent the spread of diseases.

What desert birds eat dead animals?

Many desert birds eat dead animals, including buzzards and hawks. These birds help keep the desert free of deadly pathogens.

Which black birds eat dead animals?

Vultures are among the most famous black birds to eat dead animals, but many other black birds will eat dead animals. Crows are another example of black-colored birds that eat dead animals.

Final Thoughts

Many black or desert birds will eat dead animals for a quick and easy meal that doesn’t require them to hunt. However, a lot of birds will also hunt for prey if they need to. These birds are famous for their diets, which many people rightfully find gross or unappealing at the least.

It can be hard to know what birds eat dead animals simply by looking at them, but there are plenty of ways to tell. For example, some of these birds may gather around a dead body or circle in the air, waiting for an animal to die.

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