birdsSnakes

Do Peacocks Eat Snakes and How Do They Kill Them?

Yes, peacocks eat snakes when the opportunity presents itself. In fact, in India the word used to call a peacock is ‘mayura,’ which translates as “the killer of snakes.”

Many wealthy people and farmers alike keep peacocks on their property to specifically keep cobras away, even the deadly king cobra.

Indian folklore even went so far as to say that peafowl had the ability to hypnotize cobras and make it so the cobras eggs wouldn’t hatch.

But whether all of this is myth or not, one thing we do know for sure is that peafowl really hate snakes.

So much so that snakes rarely live in their territory as the peafowl, males and females included, will actively kill and sometimes eat any and all snakes they come across regardless of the snake’s size.

This makes them great snake deterrents on farms and properties even today.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mNjy2I0Mx-Q

​Do Peafowl Eat Venomous Snakes?

Yes, peafowl eat venomous snakes no matter how big or small or how deadly the species of snake is. After all, snakes are meat, and peacocks do eat meat as well as plants and grains.

Peafowl have been known to kill everything from the highly venomous King cobra to rattlesnakes.

Yet digesting their toxic prey doesn’t seem to have any ill effects on the birds.

Since peafowl are opportunist eaters as well as omnivores, it’s easy to understand why they’d eat snakes as well as other toxic animals like scorpions and even some toxic plants.

Smaller snakes are often eaten whole in one gulp, while larger snakes are eaten in small bites and sometimes even left uneaten, demonstrating that the kill was more to do with territory rather than hunger.

Peafowl as well as other poultry birds like Guinea fowl and turkeys simply do not like any snake living anywhere near them.

peacock hunting for food

​How Do Peafowl Kill Snakes?

Peafowl have very sharp long claws and thick scales on their feet to help them in a fight with a snake.

But when possible they will grab a snake right behind their head so the snake can longer squirm and try to bite the peafowl then shake the snake vigorously until the snake is dead.

Peafowl will also come together to fight larger snakes and work as a group as each peafowl pecks and rips apart the snake with their claws until the snake is either dead or escapes the onslaught.

Speed and agility also help the peafowl in a fight as well as great eyesight that often alerts the bird to the intruder’s presence before the snake knows it’s under attack.

​Why Do Peacocks Hate Snakes so Much?

It’s believed since peafowl lay their eggs on the ground and most snakes eat the eggs of any ground-laying bird, peafowl have naturally evolved over time to see snakes as predators to their eggs and young.

Just like the peafowl, snakes are often opportunistic eaters and will eat either peafowl eggs or the newly hatched young whenever possible.

It is more often the peahen that will attack a snake rather than the peacock possibly demonstrating that is a “motherly instinct”.

​Are Peacocks Immune to Snake Venom?

No, peafowl are not immune to snake venom. The venom of a snake like the king cobra will kill peafowl quite quickly.

So it’s important that the peafowl doesn’t get bit, or if it does, it is too quick or not a deep enough bite to allow the venom to be injected into the bird.

A peacock’s scaly feet and thick leg feathers act like armor against snake bites, but they are not impenetrable. A peacock needs to move quickly and be agile not to get bitten.

They will often distract a snake using their wings and agility while at the same time pecking at the snake from behind it’s head until it has been stunned enough to grab from behind the neck for the final kill. Or they will use their strong legs and claws to stomp and rip at the snake’s skin to further maim it.

Although much rarer than snakes dying of peacock attacks, a few peacocks do die due to venomous snake bites each year.

​What Other Birds Eat Snakes?

There are many other bird species that also kill and eat snakes, both venomous and non-venomous.

Any animal that eats a snake is classified as ophiophagous. Ophiophagy simply means an animal that catches and kills snakes for food including but not limited to mongoose, skunks, reptiles, birds and even other snakes.

But just because they are classified as ophiophagous that does not mean they are immune to a snake’s venom or can’t still be hurt or even killed by a bite.

There are a few birds however who are well adapted at killing snakes. Storks are one bird that is known throughout the world as the bird that delivers babies, what isn’t commonly known is they are also very skilled snake hunters and will eat any snake that it finds.

A stork eating a snake

With over 40 species of hawks around the world it is no surprise that these stealthy hunters are high on the list of birds that kill and eat snakes. Their great eyesight and sharp talons can bring a swift death to snakes many times the hawks’ length with ease.

The bald eagle as well as other species of eagles similar to hawks will attack and kill any snake it finds as long as it isn’t too large. Their strong talons and beaks can make a quick snack of snakes of almost any size.

The ostrich may look funny, but this is a large bird and needs a lot of food for survival. This is why an ostrich has no problem eating snakes and pretty much any other edible creature that happens to have the misfortune of crossing its path.

The secretary bird is one of the more famous snake hunters on our list due to its unique style of killing their prey. Rather than peck or scratch the snake, it hops up and down literally stomping the snake to death. Each blow delivering a force up to five times its own body weight.

A secretary bird hunting a snake

From Roadrunners to even roosters, there are a lot of different birds that count snakes as their dinner.

Yet not one bird species is immune to venom. This means every time a bird catches or fights a snake, it must be careful since any bite from a venomous snake would be deadly.

In Closing

Peafowl are known to kill any snake they find within their territory regardless if they are hungry for a snack or not. These birds have a natural instinct to kill any and all snakes they come across.

So much so that they will work together as a group to kill larger snakes they find within their boundaries, sometimes leaving the intruder uneaten demonstrating that the kill was for safety reasons and not hunting for food.

This is why for thousands of years, particularly in India, the peacock has been kept on farms and estates to keep away deadly cobras and other venomous snakes.

Just having peafowl on your property is usually enough for snakes to naturally understand there is a predator and to stay away.

Read more about peacocks: Are Peacocks Very Aggressive?

Gordon Ramel

Gordon is an ecologist with two degrees from Exeter University. He's also a teacher, a poet and the owner of 1,152 books. Oh - and he wrote this website.

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