Jun 13 2013

Deer Are Not Vegetarians

Published by at 7:30 am under Mammals

While hiking in the Laurel Highlands several weeks ago I heard a hooded warbler alarm call.  I looked for the bird and discovered a large deer browsing in the area of the warbler’s voice.

Though I couldn’t see the warbler I knew why he was upset.  Deer eat birds’ eggs, baby birds and any small bird that can’t fly away.  The deer was as big a threat to his nest as a bear.

Years ago at Powdermill Banding Station I learned that deer are one reason they’re careful to quickly retrieve birds from the mist nets.  If they delay, deer eat the birds trapped in the nets.

In the video above two parent birds try to drive off a buck who’s browsing in the vicinity of their nestling.  The nestling tries to escape but cannot fly well.  The parents’ efforts were to no avail.

Deer are so omnivorous that trail-cam studies have shown they’ll readily eat from carcasses of their own species.

Nature is full of surprises.  Deer are not vegetarians.

(video from YouTube)


7 responses so far

7 Responses to “Deer Are Not Vegetarians”

  1. Sharonon 13 Jun 2013 at 9:10 am

    they are mainly herbivores but will occasionally be opportunistic … sometimes they don’t get enough protein, especially when antlers are growing or during pregnancy. This behavior is normal although not all that common.

    Their complex, 4 chambered stomach is host to specialized bacteria which allows them to do this.

  2. Art from Hershey PAon 13 Jun 2013 at 9:14 am

    Kate, I knew about the eggs, but not the baby birds and deer carcasses! Once again, I have learned something new from your blog. I read it every day and think it’s great! Keep up the good work!

  3. Steve Gosseron 13 Jun 2013 at 11:39 am

    I always presumed deer were strickly vegatarians….very interesting to learn! BTW it was nice seeing you on TV again last night after the Hummingbirds show, even though I think it was a rerun.

  4. Kate St. Johnon 13 Jun 2013 at 11:46 am

    Thanks, Steve. The show was pre-recorded a few years ago. I’m happy that I didn’t age at all!

  5. Sheree Daughertyon 13 Jun 2013 at 12:21 pm

    I did not know that! It’s probably the most interesting and unexpected thing that I’ve learned in a long time.

    Thank you, Kate!

  6. Jon 13 Jun 2013 at 1:17 pm

    Whoa! I had no idea. I think the lady taking the video was just as surprised to witness that behavior as I was to learn of it.

  7. Furry Gnomeon 13 Jun 2013 at 10:28 pm

    Well, you learn something new everyday!

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