Have you ever wondered whether fish eat birds? This might sound like a totally ridiculous question because of course fish don’t eat birds – but actually, just occasionally, they do! We are going to explore when and how fish sometimes eat birds in this article.
A fish has to be pretty large to eat a bird, and one example is the giant trevally, which will take on terns that sit on the water in its territory. These enormous fish are capable of swallowing a tern chick whole, or biting and injuring it so they can devour it.
How Do Giant Trevally Hunt Birds?
Obviously, a bird is usually out of reach for a fish – the fish just can’t get to them when they are in the air, even if they are not far above the surface.
However, when the birds drink, they sometimes land on the surface of the water, and the trevally will surface in a sudden rush and grab them.
This usually works best with the chicks, as the adults have learned to avoid the fish. Chicks that get away will also quickly learn to be more careful in the future, and won’t stay on the surface of the water.
Young chicks, however, often land because they don’t know better.
The trevally need to be quick, as even the chicks will take off fast as soon as they realize they are under attack. Usually, the fish come up beneath the birds and grab them from below.
You may have seen this happening on the latest Blue Planet, narrated by David Attenborough. His team went out specifically to try and film this rare phenomenon and were eventually successful.
Do River Fish Eat Birds?
On occasion, yes. The fish needs to be a large one, and the bird quite small, in order for the fish to have a chance. The bird also needs to be on the surface of the water, where the fish can reach it, for long enough to be detected and hunted.
The kinds of fish that eat birds are very large, but river fish can grow to extraordinary sizes. The northern pike, for example, can eat birds, and so can the largemouth bass.
Both of these have been recorded grabbing ducklings from the surface of the water. This makes sense; the ducklings are small, unlikely to be capable of fighting back, and unable to escape since they can’t fly away from the surface of the water.
Some other particularly large lake fish will go for ducklings, too, as they are, unfortunately, “sitting ducks” on the lake’s surface. This isn’t super common, but it certainly does happen, and there’s plenty of Youtube footage to prove it!
And what about adult ducks? It’s unlikely that most pikes are big enough to take on an adult duck, but they would probably do so if they could.
Pike are opportunistic feeders and will eat almost anything that they can find to devour – so yes, in theory at least, they might eat an adult duck.
Similarly, any chicks that fall from nests above the edge of the water will be eaten by pike or other predatory fish that find them.
This is often opportunism, and it isn’t thought that fish deliberately make a habit of hunting birds – they simply can’t get at them often enough.
There are other kinds of prey (such as small fish) that are readily available and make up the bulk of the big fishes’ diets.
Do Catfish Eat Pigeons?
You may have heard of catfish attacking pigeons even when they are on land, and yes, this is a real thing.
On a stretch of the River Tarn, pigeons often land on the bank of a river island to drink from the river, and they are at major risk of catfish attacks there, even when they are not very close to the water.
Amazingly, the catfish will hurl itself out of the water and up onto the gravelly edge to grab pigeons from the dry land – where you would expect them to be safe!
The catfish deliberately beaches itself, and once it has grabbed a pigeon, it wriggles and flaps until it has managed to get itself back to the water. This takes a lot of effort, but pigeons are large and rewarding prey, so apparently well worth it to the catfish.
Catfish can grow enormous, although those that hunt the pigeons are usually somewhat smaller specimens. It is thought that the larger ones struggle to get themselves back into the water, and are at greater risk of getting stuck on land.
This behavior is similar to the way that orcas beach themselves while hunting seals. The orcas rush up the beach to grab seals from the land, and then wriggle their way back to the sea, just as the catfish squirm back into the river.
What About Sharks?
Sharks are, of course, a kind of fish, and they certainly attack birds, even large seabirds. Tiger sharks are one kind that is known for hunting aerial creatures.
One population has even learned when to show up to a particular island in order to make the most of albatross chicks learning how to fly.
These young birds often struggle to get into the air for their first few flights, and when they crash into the water, they are very vulnerable to the sharks waiting for them just below the surface.
It is thought that tiger sharks will take up to ten percent of chicks each year, even though only a small group of sharks have learned about the food source.
Of course, other sharks will also go for seabirds that settle on the surface of the water at the wrong moment. This may not happen very often, but it certainly does occur.
Catching Bass With Birds
Bass is probably most known for eating birds more than any other fish species. With that being said, I have often filleted a pike only to find the remains of some birds inside. Yet, I have never caught a pike on a bird lure.
On the other hand, Bass are different; they are a bit easier to tempt with unusual lures than pike.
Some companies sell bird lures like the savage gear suicide duck. Surprisingly this lure produces good results.
Not many fish can eat birds, either because they can’t reach them or because the birds are too large to be prey, but it is certain that some fish have turned the tables and do attack birds when the opportunity presents itself.
Bass will commonly attempt to eat duck chicks and other small birds that fall into the water.