Do Whales Eat Birds: Facts Around Various Types Of Whale


Whales are amazing. Along with being the largest animals on earth, they are gentle giants with diverse food habits. Different species prefer different menus. 

Whales with teeth are classified as apex predators, and many of them prey on birds. Killer whales are one of the toothed whales that have been discovered feeding on birds. They are also known to devour big white sharks in addition to birds.

Do Whales Eat Birds
Image Credit: Whales Eating Birds from Rawpixel

Even though whales are enormous, they prefer to eat small prey. One of the fundamental motivations for doing so is the number of food sources. Another reason scientists give is that whales’ throats are too narrow to consume any larger food. As a result, they frequently eat krill, smaller fish, seals, and birds.

Whales frequently come close to the ocean’s surface and breach the water to feed on birds.

In this post, we will be primarily shedding light on whales’ habit of feeding on birds and its facts. 

So let’s get started with some whale researching!

What do whales eat?

As previously indicated, whales consume in a variety of ways. In addition, because whales are constantly on the move, their food habits align with their way of life.

Whales eat in a variety of ways, depending on their subspecies. For example, baleen whales don’t have teeth; thus, they eat small plankton, krill, and fish from the ocean water. Essentially, they are filter feeders. On the other hand, toothed whales (Odontoceti) prefer to eat larger whales such as seals, birds, sharks, and even smaller whales.

Whatever these gentle giants consume, they’re always on the prowl because they’re always moving.

Do all whales eat birds?

By now, we have learned that whales eat birds. First, however, it is interesting to explore if all whales prefer to feed on birds.

Image Credit: Humpback whale breaching from Pxhere

Birds generally become the food for whales that possess teeth. Nonetheless, news has also highlighted humpback whales possessing baleen plates and consuming wings. However, such incidents happen accidentally when the whale and the birds compete for the same food. 

In fact, there is a symbiotic relationship between whales and sea birds, as the latter could often be seen whenever groups of whales are feeding. The birds take advantage of the whales’ feeding techniques to get their favorite food. And it is here that sometimes, baleen whales, like humpback whales, accidentally gobble up sea birds. 

Why do whales eat birds?

Whales mostly feed on small fish, squids, krill, and other tiny ocean creatures. But sometimes, we have encountered them eating birds. So why do they do it?

Whales don’t necessarily go out of their way to consume birds. Although killer whales have been observed eating birds, baleen whales frequently do so unintentionally. Whale experts have documented humpbacks eating seabirds, so this is not an uncommon viewpoint. While some birds survive being spat out alive, others die due to their injuries.

In this context, there have been reports that documented humpback whales open their jaws to release birds such as Common Murres.

In a nutshell, we may say that (baleen) whales eating birds is an unintended consequence of their hunt for natural prey.

Are birds the usual diet of whales?

Although birds are more or less counted as whale food, it is interesting to explore if these are their usual food?

Birds are not a usual diet of whales. Although killer whales are found to engulf birds internationally, most whales prefer to eat marine creatures like small fish, crabs, sand eels, and even small whales. 

Do beluga whales eat birds?

Image Credit: Baluga Whale from Rawpixel

Beluga whales are also sometimes called white whales. They are toothed whales and are opportunistic feeders.

Beluga whales eat approximately 2% to 3% of their body weight and mostly feed on squids, octopus, shrimps, crabs, herring, salmon, etc. However, beluga whales are opportunistic feeders and will eat any easy prey that crosses their path.

The dietary choice of a beluga whale is governed by its habitat and the time of year. They primarily hunt for food on the ocean floor or create pods to hunt fish in shallows.

Do humpback whales eat birds?

Whether humpback whales eat birds does not have a straight answer. However, it is one of the most intriguing aspects to explore.

Baleen plates on humpback whales prevent them from chewing food. They don’t go out of their way to eat birds. Nonetheless, they are often found to engulf sea birds and schools of fish. They do so, however, unwittingly.

To satisfy their huge hunger, humpback whales sprint for their food. Marine birds that eat the same fish or sea critters take advantage of the opportunity to fly down and scoop up their prey. Unfortunately, the birds are too engaged with vying for the feast to notice the whale leaping upward with its jaw gaping. The whale breaches the water within the next few seconds, devouring both fish and birds.

Do whales ever accidentally eat birds?

If not all whales prefer eating birds, do they eat them accidentally? Let’sLet’s explore to learn.

Baleen whales have been known to eat birds by accident on occasion. These instances are more like collateral damage in the race to get the same food. The whale breaches the water with an open mouth while the birds, engrossed in their hunts, forget to avoid the former’s gobbling.

Do killer whales eat birds?

Image Credit: Killer whale breaching from Pixahive

Killer whales are not really whale species but are dolphins. They are toothed mammals and are considered apex marine predators. So do they eat birds?

Killer whales’ diet varies depending on where they live. These mammals are known to feed on marine creatures, seals, and birds. Apart from these, they often go for bigger creatures like great white sharks. 

Do blue whales eat birds?

Blue whales are goliaths. They are huge, and they need a large amount of food, around 4 tons, to keep up with their weight and lifestyle. 

Blue whales almost exclusively survive on krill. These mammals are not known to feed on birds. 

Summary

Toothed and baleen whales have different feeding habits. While the Odontoceti use their teeth to consume larger whale food, the Mysticeti use their baleen plates to filter feed. Except for Orcas, birds are not a common food source for whales. Even yet, whales have been known to eat marine birds by accident when devouring their authentic food from the water’s surface.

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