Deer Are Not Vegetarians

13 June 2013

While hiking in the Laurel Highlands last month 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 a big threat to the hooded warbler’s nest.

Years ago at Powdermill Avian Research Center 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 fledgling.  The youngster tries to escape but cannot fly well.  The parents’ efforts were not enough. The deer ate their young.

Deer are so omnivorous that trail-cam studies show they’ll readily eat from gut piles and deer carcasses.

Nature is full of surprises.  Deer are not vegetarians.

(video from YouTube)

7 thoughts on “Deer Are Not Vegetarians

  1. 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. 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. 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.

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

  4. 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.

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