Fish are a nutritious and popular food source, which is why there are many animals that eat fish. From seagulls to penguins, there are a variety of creatures that rely on fish for sustenance. In fact, some animals, such as otters, are almost entirely dependent on fish.
While some of these animals that eat fish hunt their prey in the open ocean, others lurk in the shadows, waiting to ambush unsuspecting fish. Regardless of the method, these animals have all mastered the art of hunting fish.
Animals That Eat Fish
Here are 11 fascinating animals that eat fish and some examples of the different ways they catch their prey.
1. North American River Otter
Scientific Name: Lontra canadensis
The North American river otter is a playful and mischievous semi-aquatic mammal that can be found near freshwater streams, lakes, and rivers. They are proficient swimmers thanks to their long, streamlined bodies and webbed feet.
These otters can stay underwater for up to eight minutes, and their clawed feet help them grasp and capture fish. Their diet primarily consists of fish, crayfish, frogs, and small mammals. Due to their high metabolism, they must eat frequently and consume up to 15% of their body weight daily.
Scientific Name: Orcinus orca
Orcas, also known as killer whales, are one of the largest members of the dolphin family. They can grow up to 32 feet long and weigh over six tons. These apex predators are found in all oceans worldwide and hunt in pods of up to 30 individuals.
Orcas work together to herd their prey into a small area before attacking. They target fish such as salmon, herring, and mackerel. Orcas are also known to eat larger prey items such as sea lions, penguins, seals, and even large whales.
Scientific Name: Spheniscidae
Penguins are flightless birds that mainly live in the southern hemisphere. There are 18 different species of penguin, ranging in size from the little blue penguin (which is only about 13 inches tall) to the emperor penguin (which can be up to four feet tall).
Penguins eat a variety of fish, squid, and krill. They are well-adapted for life in the water and can swim up to 22 miles per hour. Their wings have evolved into flippers that help them navigate the water, and their feathers are waterproof, keeping them warm and dry.
4. Brown Bears
Scientific Name: Ursus arctos
Brown bears are found in many parts of the world, including North America, Europe, and Asia. These large mammals are known for their strong sense of smell and ability to run at speeds up to 35mph. They are also proficient swimmers and often catch fish as part of their diet. They primarily eat fish found in rivers and streams, such as salmon and trout.
To catch fish, brown bears will either catch them in their mouths as they swim upstream, or they will wait for them to come to the surface and then snatch them out of the water with their claws. These large predators can eat up to 90 pounds of fish daily.
5. Great Blue Heron
Scientific Name: Ardea herodias
This large bird can be found near freshwater marshes, ponds, and lakes. They are expert hunters and use a variety of methods to catch fish. These include standing still and waiting for prey to come within range, stalking their prey, and diving into the water to catch fish. These birds typically eat small fish such as minnows, small carp, goldfish, and salmon. However, they have been known to eat larger prey items such as snakes, frogs, and rodents.
6. American Alligator
Scientific Name: Alligator mississippiensis
The American alligator is a large reptile that can be found in freshwater swamps and marshes. These predators are well-camouflaged and can lie motionless in the water for long periods, waiting for their prey to swim by. Alligators typically eat fish, turtles, snakes, mammals, and birds.
To catch their prey, they will either snatch them out of the water with their powerful jaws or wait for them to come to the surface and strike. Alligators can go for long periods without eating, but when they do feed, they can consume up to 37 pounds of food in a single meal.
7. Bald eagle
Scientific Name: Haliaeetus leucocephalus
The bald eagle is a large bird of prey that can be found near freshwater lakes and rivers. These predators have sharp talons and beaks that they use to catch fish. Bald eagles will typically perch in a tree or on a cliff, waiting for their prey to swim by.
When they see a fish, they will swoop down and snatch it out of the water. These birds normally eat small fish such as trout and salmon. However, they have been known to eat small mammals such as rabbits and rodents or simply steal fish from the smaller osprey.
Scientific Name: Pandion haliaetus
The Osprey is a large fish-eating bird of prey. Also known as the “sea hawk” or “fish hawk.” Ospreys are found on every continent except Antarctica, and they typically hunt near bodies of water such as lakes, rivers, and coastlines.
Fish make up the majority of the osprey’s diet, and they typically eat whatever fish is most abundant in their area. To catch fish, the osprey will swoop down from a perch and plunge into the water, using its sharp claws to grasp the fish. It will then fly back to its perch and eat the fish.
9. Leopard Seal
Scientific Name: Hydrurga leptonyx
The leopard seal is a large marine mammal that can be found in the waters around Antarctica. These predators are known for their agility and their ability to swim at high speeds. Leopard seals typically eat fish, squid, and krill.
They also eat penguins and other seals. To catch their prey, they will either chase them down or wait for them to come to the surface and then snatch them out of the water with their sharp teeth.
10. American Herring Gull
Scientific Name: Larus smithsonianus
The American herring gull is a predatory bird that feeds primarily on fish. They typically use their beaks to snatch fish out of the water. Herring gulls will also eat other marine animals, such as crustaceans and squid. In addition to hunting in the open water, these birds will also scavenge for food on beaches and docks.
Interestingly, American herring gulls are one of the few bird species that can drink salt water. They can do this because they have a specialized gland above their eyes that helps to filter out the salt. This adaptation allows them to live and hunt in marine environments where other bird species would quickly perish.
11. American Minks
Scientific Name: Neovison vison
The American mink is a small, predatory mammal that can be found in North America. These animals are proficient swimmers, and they typically hunt for fish, frogs, and crustaceans in streams, rivers, and lakes.
To catch their prey, they will either dive into the water and swim after it or wait for it to come to the surface and then snatch it with their sharp teeth. American minks are also known to eat small mammals, such as rodents and rabbits.