While many birds are scared of snakes, there are species of birds that don’t perceive snakes as threats to their safety. In fact, some birds prey on snakes for food! Whether a bird is frightened by snakes will depend on the species of bird and the species of snake.
What You'll Learn
Snakes typically feed on hatchlings and eggs, so birds that are afraid of snakes are likely looking out for their offspring. It is not unheard of for snakes to eat adult birds, but eggs and hatchlings are much more common.
Many factors determine whether birds will be afraid of certain snakes, but in general, if a specific snake species is perceived as a threat to hatchlings or eggs, then the bird will likely be afraid of the snake and may flee the area.
Why Some Birds Are Afraid of Snakes
If a bird is afraid of snakes, it is likely out of self-protection. Rat snakes, corn snakes, fox snakes, and many more regularly eat birds, so birds may recognize these snakes as predators and will be scared away by their presence.
It is fairly common for snakes to attack bird nests, so seeing a snake may cause a bird to flee from an area.
Snakes also pose a threat to baby birds. It is typical of snakes to take eggs and baby birds from bird nests. Rather than preying on birds with brute force, snakes often observe birds’ living patterns and slither into their nests at opportune times when the birds aren’t on guard.
Snakes can climb trees and commonly take baby hatchlings or eggs from nests at night when birds will not be as aggressively guarding the nest.
However, some snakes are deterred by the cool of the night and will only prey during the warmth of the day.
Many species of snakes prey on small birds and will especially prey on their hatchlings. If a bird spots a snake during the day, the bird may recognize that the snake could pose a threat to the bird and its babies’ lives and see a need to leave the area.
In fact, some landowners who want to get rid of birds will place fake snakes around their property to deter birds from making their homes there. Once the bird perceives the threat of a snake, the area becomes a less safe space for a nest and its hatchlings.
What Kind of Snakes Eat Birds?
Most birds eaten by snakes will be preyed on by rat snakes, corn snakes, and fox snakes, but many other types of snakes eat birds.
Rat snakes are found in North America and are likely to eat birds while nestling. Rat snakes typically strike at night. Rat snakes will watch birds’ flight patterns during the day to locate their nests at night.
Corn snakes are also found in North America and prey on birds during the day and night.
Fox snakes are found in the northern parts of North America. They will typically prey during the day unless it is warmer at night.
If you live in an area where these snakes are native, you may find that the birds there will be afraid of these species of snakes.
Some smaller snakes or snakes with specific diets will not feed on birds at all. For example, rough green snakes primarily eat small insects, and water snakes mostly eat fish and water creatures.
Birds will recognize that there is no reason to fear these snakes that pose no threat to them or their hatchlings.
Do Snakes Eat Large Birds?
It is not typical for snakes to eat adult birds, much less large species of birds. While smaller birds may be afraid of snakes, snakes don’t pose much of a threat to large birds.
Just as birds recognize that certain species of snakes prey on them, so do snakes recognize that certain birds (such as hawks or owls) will pose a greater predatory threat than smaller backyard birds.
In these situations, snakes will show more fear of these birds than these predatory birds will have toward snakes.
Why Some Birds Aren’t Afraid of Snakes
Though many birds are scared by snakes, there are reasons that birds may not be deterred by the presence of a snake.
First, some birds will not recognize certain species of snakes as predators. Depending on the snake’s species and capacity to prey on specific species of birds, it may not pose an actual threat to certain birds. Birds may see a snake and recognize that it likely will not prey on the bird or its hatchlings, causing no fear.
Secondly, many species of birds actually prey on snakes. Domestic birds and birds of prey alike are capable of eating certain species of snake. Even birds as small as crows may eat living and dead snakes.
While it is much more common for snakes to eat birds, the birds that prey on snakes will not be afraid of them. They’ll perceive them as a food source.
Which Birds Eat Snakes?
Many of the birds that eat snakes are going to be larger species, such as hawks, owls, eagles, and falcons. Some birds will only target non-venomous snakes, but there are plenty of birds who will also prey on poisonous snakes.
Birds that eat snakes will have many biological advantages that allow them to overpower and prey on snakes, such as thick skin on their legs to protect them from venomous snakes, sharper beaks, great eyesight, larger talons, and greater speed.
These characteristics give birds the advantage when approaching a snake and allow them to pose a threat rather than being afraid of the snake.
For birds with these biological advantages, snakes make an easy and achievable meal. These birds are looking for things they are capable of preying on, and snakes fit the bill.
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I am Bryan Powell and I own BirdHour.com. I love bird watching; in fact, I have a parakeet of my own. I enjoy spending time outdoors and observing the natural world around me. This website is a means of sharing my passion for birds with others who may be interested in this activity.