Whether you see them at your favorite local zoo, or on safari in their natural habitat in Africa, lions are impressive animals.
Although these large cats spend a considerable amount of time of the day sleeping, they also stalk and hunt their prey for hours.
As apex predators, lions can eat almost anything but do lions also eat birds?
We find out whether they eat any kind of bird, and how much lions usually need to eat.
Do Wild Lions Eat Birds?
In their natural habitat in the wilderness of Africa, lions eat almost everything made of meat and flesh. They are carnivores.
The grasslands and savannas of the sub-Sahara provide plenty of food, such as wildebeests, antelopes and zebras.
While this is much larger prey, lions also eat smaller prey, such as birds. However, lions are heavy cats and they do typically spend a lot of energy on hunting.
This means that their prey should be big enough to provide them with the nutrition they need.
Although smaller birds can add to the variety of the lion’s diet, they are usually too small to make them a main food source.
This is why, lions often have birds as a small snack on the side whenever the opportunity arises.
In addition, birds are also not a lion’s favorite due to the feathers. There is a large amount of feather, in particular on larger birds like eagles or vultures, and as they cannot eat the feathers, lions try to avoid them.
However, lions also eat other small prey, such as mice, lizards and turtles. They also occasionally scavenge, which means that they steal food from other hunting animals, such as leopards or cheetahs.
Lions often prefer to hunt much larger animals with very short fur or brizzles, such as pigs or buffalo.
They also occasionally roam very close to villages and towns where they hunt livestock.
How Do Lions Hunt?
Lions live in small family groups, called prides. These prides can be as large as 40 animals.
This lion family is typically made up of no more than two male lions, female lions and cubs. The hunting is usually done by the lionesses, whereas the male lions take the role as protector for the group.
Similar to our domestic cats, lions also have a set territory where they hunt. However, a pride’s territory spans across around one hundred square miles.
Lionesses stalk their prey for some time. Most of their preferred large prey, such as antelopes, is much faster.
Unlike a cheetah, lions do not run for long distances. This means that lionesses need to work together to kill their prey.
These attacks often happen at night, as it is much easier to hunt in the dark. The lionesses form a circle around their indeed prey, and then close in to the center.
Surprisingly, not all lion attacks are successful. On average, 1 out of 6 lion hunts also produce a substantial meal for the pride.
Once the lionesses caught their prey, they will kill it by biting the prey’s throat, nose or mouth.
Smaller animals are killed by a bite to the head, or a knock with the lion’s paw. Even a small knock with a large lion paw can cause great harm to a small animal, such as a bird.
Despite that lions aren’t very fast, they have strong jaws and sharp teeth, which makes them the ultimate apex predators.
Their teeth are made not just for killing but also for ripping the meat of their prey’s bones.
There is a strict hierarchy when it comes to feeding. When the female lions caught the prey, the male lion will eat first, then the lionesses and their cubs.
Do Captive Lions Eat Birds?
The behavior of wild lions and lions in captivity can often differ widely but typically the diet of captivated animals is based on their natural diet and habitat in the wild.
Different zoos also have different feeding routines, and different products that cater to the needs of carnivores.
As carnivore and apex predatos, meat is the staple of a lion’s diet. It is essential as it provides the nutritional value this large cat needs.
However, a meat-based diet is also important because lions in captivity need to exercise their jaw muscles and teeth regularly.
As they do not have the opportunity to hunt as out in the wild, they still need to be given the opportunity to feed in a similar way.
A typical diet of a lion in captivity includes sheep, beef, chicken, rabbit and other raw meats.
Just like in the wild, lions also need bones together with their meat for a balanced diet.
Although lions do not exclusively live on bones, they do occasionally get fed cow bones, such as femurs, knuckles or shanks.
In combination with fresh meat and large bones, lions in captivity also receive a mix of commercial food which has been specifically designed for carnivores.
These foods for felines contain a range of vitamins and minerals that a lion needs to stay healthy.
Do Lions Eat Every Day?
Lions need to eat regularly. However, they do not eat every day. Lions typically hunt every four days where they catch prey that’s large enough to provide sufficient nutrition.
Lions need to eat around 5-7kg of meat per day but they can go without food for some time.
This means that lions don’t need to eat daily but they catch large amounts of prey in one go and then eat a larger amount of meat.
This can be as much as a quarter of the lion’s own body weight.
Lions are impressive carnivores, and they hunt and eat almost anything that’s worthwhile, including mice and birds.
Generally, a lion can kill around 14 larger animals, such as antelopes or pigs, per year.
Not eating daily allows them to survive for longer periods of time without food. The lion only needs one good kill every few weeks.
This is the reason why birds, which are very light on nutritional value for the lion, is just a snack for this large animal.