Photo: Cattle Egret
In loving adoration and memory of my aunt Linda who instilled my lifelong love of biology.
Living in South Florida on the edge of the Everglades, I’m able to observe birds that eat frogs on almost a daily basis. It’s impossible to go anywhere without passing freshwater canals, ponds, and retention areas that support a wide range of aquatic life including frogs.
So, exactly what North American Breeding birds eat frogs and toads? Around 7% of North American birds eat frogs. All Herons and Egrets eat frogs though frogs are not their primary food. Birds that eat frogs include Cranes, Crows, Jays, Kites, and Rails. No bird consumes amphibians as their main source of food and for those who do, it’s a secondary choice.
Some birds have a very small menu they choose from like the Snail Kite who feed exclusively on apple snails. Most other birds consume a variety of foods like anthropods, seeds, berries, grains, and carrion. Some frog eating birds like the Crow have specialized techniques to avoid ingesting toxins from amphibians like the Cane Toad (Rhinella marina). Other birds like the Cattle Egret eat the whole frog, but only after several well-placed beak jabs.
North American Birds That Are Known To Eat Frogs
Here’s a list of North American Birds that eat frogs. Some freshwater wading birds like Herons and Egrets will consume more frogs, due to their foraging location, than others like Hawks and Owls. These birds prefer fish, mammals, and other birds; frogs are lower on their prefered food list.
The Tufted Duck will consume frogs and fish when their preferred food source is low or the opportunity presents itself as they feed primarily on Mollusks (clams and snails), aquatic plants/insects and duckweeds.
Contrary to popular believe, Geese, Swans, and Gulls do not eat frogs. It’s possible for hungry gulls to eat almost anything; however, frogs are not on their menu, though, with gulls, anything is possible.
North American Birds That Eat Frogs
- Barn Owl | Barred Owl | Boreal Owl
- Burrowing Owl | Northern Saw-whet Owl | Western Screech-Owl
- American Bittern | Least Bittern | Gull-billed Tern
- American Black Duck | Falcated Duck | Tufted Duck
- Cattle Egret | Chinese Egret | Great Egret
- Little Egret | Reddish Egret | Snowy Egret
- Boat-tailed Grackle | Yellow-crowned Night-Heron | Green Heron
- Black-crowned Night Heron | Great Blue Heron
- Little Blue Heron | Tricolor Heron | Western Reef-Heron
- Crested Caracara | Double-crested Cormorant | Neotropic Cormorant
- Common Crane | Sandhill Crane | American Crow
- Blue Jays | California Scrub-Jay | Common Raven
- Eurasian Jackdaw | Northwestern Crow | Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay
- Groove-billed Ani | Yellow-billed Cuckoo | Glossy Ibis
- Belted Kingfisher | Green Kingfisher | Ringed Kingfisher
- Broad-winged Hawk | Common Black Hawk | Ferruginous Hawk
- Hook-billed Kite | Mississippi Kite | Northern Harrier
- Red-shouldered Hawk | Swainson’s Hawk | Swallow-tailed Kite
- White-tailed Hawk | White-tailed Kite | Zone-tailed Hawk
- Limpkin | Pacific Loon | Brown Thrasher | Long-billed Thrasher
- American Coot | Clapper Rail | King Rail
- Purple Gallinule | Greater Yellowlegs | Ruff | Loggerhead Shrike
- Solitary Sandpiper | Spotted Redshank | Wood Sandpiper
- Common Myna | Jabiru | Wood Stork
Do Birds Eat Frogs Whole?
Birds do eat frogs whole if they are small enough. For example, the Tricolored Heron may quickly swallow a small Eastern Narrow-mouthed Toad but will violently shake and bite an adult until stunned or dead to aid in swallowing. Cattle Egrets will swallow mid-sized Cane toads after they kill it. This toad will spread its arms and legs in a locked position to avoid being swallowed.
Others birds like Egrets and Jays will peck the frog until it stops moving and then
Yes, Birds Eat Frogs. Do Frogs Eat Birds?
Yes, they do, so all of you frog fans can feel a little better. However, only one species of frog in North America is known to do this. Enter the amazing Bullfrog. Stomach dissections show the bullfrog (Lithobates catesbeianus) eats a huge variety of tasty morsels including other frogs, rodents, birds, and bats! Fullgrown Cane Toads will also eat fallen baby birds if the opportunity presents itself. If it fits in the mouth, it’s fair game for the invasive Cane Toad.
How Do Birds Avoid Poisonous Frogs and Toads?
The Pickerel frog is the only indigenous poisonous frog in North America. They occur in the eastern part of the U.S and birds simply leave them alone. The Cane Toad is another story.
Corvidae (crows), of course, have figured a way around the poisonous parotid glands located on both sides of the Cane toad’s neck. They simply avoid them while destroying and dismembering the toad.
Owls, Hawks, and raccoons use a similar technique on these toads. I have a lot of Cane toads on my property; one morning I found a Cane toad upside down with all of its organs neatly removed. I just can’t confirm what animal did it. As invasive species advance, they will come across new predators like Crows and Raptors who learn to exploit their defenses.
Here is some of the birding gear I use in the field.
What are frogs main predators?
To live, frogs must avoid snakes, birds, fish, otters, minks, hedgehogs, shrews, crayfish, newts, skunks, and fishing spiders.
What kind of frogs do birds eat?
- American Bullfrogs | Wood Frogs | Pond Frogs
- True Frogs | American Toads | Chorus Frogs
- Oak Toads | North American Narrow-mouthed Toads
- American Green Tree Frogs | Cane Toads