do black snakes eat birds

The mysterious disappearance of the eggs, baby birds, and even an adult from an active bird nest is relatively common. Studies of nesting birds found that predation by snakes is the leading cause of nest failure, and only half of all bird nests are successful.

This article reviews the interactions between snakes and bird nests, identify snake species known to eat bird eggs and baby birds, and proposes ways to stop snakes from raiding nesting boxes.

How does one know what eats the eggs or baby birds from a nest?

A nest’s disappearance of eggs, young, and possibly an adult usually indicates that a predator has raided the nest. Predators usually move at night, so it’s rare to see the raid in action.

The culprit’s identity is frequently revealed by telling signs left at the nest site.

  • The culprit was probably a snake if the nest or nesting box looks intact with no evidence of nesting material ripped apart or hanging and all or some eggs, chicks, and possibly the female disappear. Days after the snake raid, one or both parents are almost always still alive.
  • The most likely culprit is a raccoon if a cup nest is overturned, appears to have been ripped apart, or if nesting material is hanging from the entrance hole of a nesting box.
  • The most likely culprit is a house wren or house sparrow if the eggs are still inside the nest with holes poked in them or if they are on the ground beneath the nest.
  • The pole and nesting box are toppled and destroyed when a bear is involved, and the eggs and young birds disappear.

I know snakes raid birds’ nests, but how bad is the problem?

Using a review of studies on nest predation conducted in North America, ornithologists discovered that, on average, snakes predated 2026 percent of nests. Bear in mind, though, that this is an average number.

While in some studies snakes did not predate on any nests, in others snakes predated on up to 90% of the nests. According to these studies These varied findings imply that the number of eggs, young birds, and adults lost to snakes is extremely unpredictable and dependent on numerous variables.

An intriguing finding was that snakes prey more often on nests in warmer, lower-latitude states than in the more frigid northern states.

Nine snake species that are specifically trained to locate bird nests and consume the eggs and young birds have been identified by ornithologists and bird enthusiasts.

It was discovered by ornithologists that 2070 percent of snake attacks on bird nests were caused by:

  • Rat snakes (Elaphe obsolete)
  • Corn snakes (Elaphe guttata), and
  • Fox snakes (Elaphe vulpinus)

These three species of snakes are specialized in eating mice, rats, roosting birds, and bird nests. Other species of snakes in the Pituophis genus also include pine snakes.

These snakes are skilled climbers that frequently scour man-made structures and the forest canopy for prey.

6. Speckled Kingsnake (Lampropeltis getula)

speckled king snake is an occasional bird nest raiderPhoto: Peter Paplanus/Flickr/CC by 2.0

The upper half of the Speckled King Snake is covered in yellowish specks, giving it a dark overall appearance. The lower half and belly are yellowish.

The average size of a speckled kingsnake is up to 48 inches (120 cm).

Habits: The Speckled King Snake prefers to live near bodies of water. They favor hardwood hammocks, pinelands, bottomlands, farmland, and suburban areas.

Often hiding under woodpiles and any other kind of cover, the speckled kingsnake Even though they are only active during the day, they can be elusive and difficult to find.