American Oceans

7 Birds That Eat Fish

Seven bird species are known to feed on fish as their primary food source. These birds are adapted to catching fish in a variety of ways, from diving into the water to snatching fish from the surface.

great blue heron swallowing a fish

They can be found in various habitats around the world, including freshwater and saltwater environments.

One of the most famous fish-eating birds is the osprey. These birds of prey are found on every continent except Antarctica and are known for their distinctive brown and white plumage.

Ospreys are expert fishers, with specialized feet that allow them to grasp fish with ease. They can be seen hovering over waterways before diving in to catch their prey.

Read on below to learn about the other fish eating birds out there!


a seagull with a fish in its mouth

These birds are often found near the coast, where they can easily catch fish and other marine creatures.

Seagulls have a sharp beak and strong legs that allow them to snatch fish from the water or dig up shellfish from the sand.

They are also opportunistic feeders and will scavenge for food in garbage cans and other human-made sources. Seagulls are often seen in large flocks, especially during the breeding season.

Despite their reputation as pests, seagulls play an important role in the food chain and help to keep the coastal ecosystem healthy.


an osprey catching fish

Ospreys are found throughout North America, living near rivers, lakes, and other bodies of water.

They prefer to nest in tall trees or on man-made structures such as telephone poles or channel markers. Ospreys can be found in both urban and rural areas, but are more common in less developed areas.

Ospreys are also known as fish hawks because their diet consists almost entirely of fish. They are skilled hunters and can spot fish from high in the sky.

Once they locate a fish, they dive feet first into the water to catch it with their sharp talons. Ospreys are particularly fond of trout and salmon, but will eat any small fish they can catch.

Bald Eagle

a bald eagle catching fish

Bald Eagles are found in North America, specifically in Alaska and Canada. They prefer to live near rivers, lakes, and coasts where they can find a steady supply of fish to eat.

They build their nests in tall trees near the water, and they often return to the same nest year after year.

Bald Eagles are known for their fish-heavy diet. They primarily eat fish such as trout and salmon, but they will also eat other small fish and even water birds.

They are skilled hunters and will swoop down from the sky to catch fish with their talons. They are migratory birds and will travel long distances in search of food.


brown pelican eating a fish

Pelicans can be found in wetland habitats, coastal areas, and rivers throughout North America, South America, and Australia.

They prefer to nest in colonies on islands or remote areas away from predators.

Pelicans are known for their fish-eating habits. They have a unique way of catching fish by diving from the air and scooping up small fish in their expandable throat pouch.

They eat a variety of fish, including bass, and can consume up to 4 pounds of fish per day. Pelicans also eat carrion and occasionally insects.


penguins using wings trying to fly

Penguins are a group of flightless birds that are found primarily in the southern hemisphere, particularly in Antarctica.

However, some species of penguins are also found in the southern parts of South America, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand. Penguins live in colonies, and their habitats include rocky coastlines, ice shelves, and beaches.

They are adapted to living in cold, harsh environments and have a thick layer of feathers that provides insulation against the cold.

Penguins are carnivorous and feed primarily on fish, crustaceans, and squid. They are excellent hunters and can dive to great depths to catch fish. Some of the fish that penguins eat include perch, sardines, and krill.

Penguins also hunt for crustaceans such as crabs and krill. They have a streamlined body that helps them swim through water and catch prey. Penguins can also swim up to 15 miles per hour in the water to catch their prey.

Common Tern

a common tern eating an eel

The Common Tern is a migratory bird that can be found in coastal areas, wetlands, and islands across North America, Europe, and Asia.

During the breeding season, they prefer to nest on rocky islands, sandy beaches, and salt marshes.

The Common Tern is a piscivorous bird, which means it feeds mainly on fish. They usually catch small fish such as anchovies, but they also eat insects and other small vertebrates.

The Common Tern catches fish by diving into the water from a height of up to 30 feet.

Great Blue Heron

a great blue heron catching a fish from a river bank

The Great Blue Heron is a wading bird commonly found in wetland habitats across North America.

They can be found near ponds, lakes, and other bodies of water, as well as in marshes and swamps. They prefer to nest in trees near water sources.

The Great Blue Heron is known for its diet of fish, which makes up a significant portion of its food intake. They are also known to eat small fish, reptiles, rodents, and frogs.

They use their sharp beaks to catch their prey, and can often be seen wading in shallow water to hunt for fish.

African Fish Eagle

an african fish eagle catching prey

The African Fish Eagle is a bird of prey found throughout sub-Saharan Africa, living near freshwater lakes, rivers, and coastal areas.

They prefer open water and are often seen perched in trees near the water’s edge.

The African Fish Eagle is a skilled hunter and feeds primarily on fish, which make up about 90% of their diet.

They hunt by swooping down from their perch and snatching fish from the water’s surface with their sharp talons.

They are also known to eat small mammals, reptiles, and birds, as well as scavenging on carrion.


Cormorants are a type of aquatic bird that have a voracious appetite for fish. They are known for their diving abilities, which allow them to catch fish underwater.

Cormorants have a long, slender neck and a hooked beak that is ideal for catching slippery fish. They also have webbed feet that aid in swimming and diving. These birds are found in both freshwater and saltwater habitats around the world.

They are often seen perched on rocks or tree branches near the water’s edge, waiting for their next meal.

Despite their predatory nature, cormorants are an important part of the ecosystem and play a crucial role in maintaining a healthy balance of aquatic life.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some fish-eating birds?

Fish-eating birds are a diverse group of birds that have adapted to feeding on fish as their primary source of food.

Some common examples of fish-eating birds include herons, egrets, cormorants, ospreys, pelicans, gulls, and terns.

Which birds are known for eating fish?

Some birds are particularly well-known for their fish-eating habits. Ospreys, for example, are sometimes called “fish hawks” because of their specialized hunting technique, which involves diving feet-first into the water to catch fish. Similarly, cormorants are known for their ability to swim underwater in pursuit of fish.

What types of birds eat fish?

Many different types of birds are known to eat fish. Some, like ospreys and eagles, are raptors that catch fish with their sharp talons and powerful beaks.

Others, like herons and egrets, use their long, slender bills to spear fish in shallow water. Still others, like pelicans and gulls, scoop fish out of the water with their bills.

How do birds that eat fish catch their prey?

Different species of birds use different techniques to catch fish. Some, like ospreys and eagles, fly high above the water and then dive down to catch fish with their talons. Others, like herons and egrets, wade slowly through shallow water, waiting for fish to swim by before striking with their bills.

Cormorants and anhingas swim underwater in pursuit of fish, using their wings to propel themselves through the water.

What is the benefit of eating fish for birds?

Fish are a rich source of protein and other nutrients, making them an important food source for many birds.

Eating fish can help birds build strong muscles and feathers, and can also provide them with the energy they need for long migrations.

How do fish-eating birds affect the ecosystem?

Fish-eating birds play an important role in many aquatic ecosystems. By feeding on fish, they help to control populations of these animals, which can prevent overfishing and other ecological imbalances.

However, in some cases, fish-eating birds can also have negative impacts on fish populations, particularly if their numbers become too large and they begin to overexploit local fish stocks.

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