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11 Animals that Eat Ticks (List & Pictures)

Tick

Animals that eat ticks include oxpeckers, woodpeckers, monkeys, opossums, guinea fowl, and chickens.

Ticks are bugs found on domestic and wild animals as their host. They also thrive on bushes and grasses that are common feeding areas for animals.

Apart from being dangerous and harmful to animals, they are also a threat to human health. Ticks have been associated with the increased spread of Lyme disease and other disease-spreading bacteria.

This makes prevention of their infestation a priority. Several natural predators prey on ticks, including opossums, chickens, ants, Guinea Fowl, woodpeckers, oxpeckers, quail, turkey, squirrels, spiders, and frogs.

What Eats Ticks?

Several animals feed on ticks, and some are highly prolific in eating and reducing the number of ticks.

1. Opossums

Virginia Opossum
Scientific NameDidelphidae
Type of AnimalMammal
RangeNorth and Central America
DietOmnivore

The most efficient tick predator is the Opossum. They are related to the koalas, but they resemble rats and have body sizes like cats. Naturally, Opossum eats both plants and animals and can feed on anything that is accessible.

Opossum eats the highest number of ticks among all tick-eating animals and birds. Although they do not hunt for ticks, ticks usually stick on them (ecological trap). Therefore, during the glooming process, opossums typically eat almost all the ticks they can get from their skin.

It is estimated that they eat more than 95 percent of the ticks they get and can eat up to 5000 ticks per week. Therefore, if there are many opossums in a tick-infested locality, they are highly effective in eliminating them. This helps reduce human bites from ticks, animal infestation, the spread of Lyme disease, and other disease-causing bacteria associated with tick bites.

P.S: Even if they might seem ugly, they are beneficial in keeping away pesky ticks. So do not chase them away; just tolerate them. 

2. Squirrels

Antelope Squirrel
Scientific NameSciuridae
Type of AnimalMammal
RangeThere are New World and Old World Species
DietOmnivore

The same phenomenon of ecological trap associated with Opossum is what squirrels apply to feed on ticks. Squirrels get infested with ticks as they source for food, and during grooming, they feed on most of the ticks trapped on their skin.

Just like Opossum, squirrels are good at removing and eating ticks that attach themselves to their skin. If your garden is infested with ticks, just place some squirrel-friendly snacks like peanuts and observe magic happen.

Attracting squirrels into your garden drastically reduces the number of ticks.

3. Frogs and Toads

Golden Poison Frog
Scientific NameAnura
Type of AnimalAmphibian
RangeWorldwide except polar regions
DietOmnivore

Frogs also eat ticks, but they do not naturally prey on them. Frogs will prefer to feed on other things such as flies, but when an opportunity to eat ticks presents itself, they will feed on them.

Frogs are not picky eaters, and they will feed on other small insects, even preying on spiders and ticks. However, frogs are highly unlikely to eat ticks because they prefer to feed in or around water, and there are few ticks around these areas. The only time frogs might prey on ticks is when they find ticks on foliage close to their habitats as they look for a host.

This might not be the case for toads because they spend most of their time on land. They are likely to encounter ticks in these habitats as they seek hosts. Therefore, there are higher chances for toads to feed on ticks than frogs.

4. Monkeys

Spider Monkey
Scientific NameSimiiformes
Type of AnimalMammal
RangeAfrica, Asia, South and Central America
DietOmnivore

Monkeys groom one another to remove dead skin, fleas, and even ticks from each others’ bodies. You may be able to observe them picking at one another in the zoo.

When monkeys pick at each other’s skin, they’re often just eating the salty dead skin and dried sweat from each other. But, they’ll also feast on the ticks and fleas that they find on each other’s bodies.

Grooming between monkeys is called ‘social grooming’. It functions as a form of pair bonding between mates, maternal behavior of mothers, and is even a way to achieve conflict resolution.

Related Article: Do Monkey Eat Oranges?

Birds That Eat Ticks

Apart from the mentioned animals, birds also feed on ticks. Although they are not their immediate food source, they will occasionally feed on them. Several birds, including chicken, Guinea Fowl, quail, oxpecker, woodpecker, duck, and turkey, are in this category of birds that prey on ticks.

Some of these birds are prolific tick eaters, and having them in your yard will drastically reduce the number of ticks.

5. Chickens

chicken
Scientific NameNumididae
Type of AnimalBird
RangeSub-Saharan Africa. It is an introduced species elsewhere.
DietOmnivore

Chicken is the most common bird in homesteads across the globe, with their numbers surpassing that of humans. They are mainly kept for meat and eggs or as pets, but it has been observed that they are also instrumental in reducing the number of ticks in our yards.

Chickens are not picky eaters and feed on anything, including leaves, worms, seeds, and insects. Chickens look for food on foliage, and that is where ticks reside as they seek a host. Therefore, when they come across ticks, they will feed on them.

Chicken can feed on tens of ticks or bugs in a single sitting. They are highly skillful in seeking and gulping ticks, making them the best natural tick control method. 

Therefore, having your chicken roam in your farm/yard will help in minimizing tick infestation.

One downfall of having chickens roam your yard is disrupting your garden due to their digging habits as they look for insects in the upper part of the soil. However, rearing lighter and agile chicken breeds will reduce the effects on your garden.

6. Oxpeckers

Oxpecker
Scientific NameBuphagus
Type of AnimalBird
RangeSub-Saharan Africa.
DietOmnivore

Unlike chickens that eat ticks in foliage, oxpeckers are flying birds that pick ticks off their host animals such as deer, zebras, wildebeests, antelopes, and cattle. They are small and derive their name from their habit of perching on large herbivorous animals.

Their natural diets include bugs and insects found on large herbivorous mammals, including fleas, ticks, and lice. They also feed on parasites found on animals’ open wounds. Oxpeckers have sharp beaks that allow them to remove bugs, parasites, and ticks deep inside the host animal skin.

Oxpeckers are prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa, meaning that if you are reading this post from anywhere else, it will be hard to see them. However, they are excellent in minimizing ticks on infested animals.

7. Woodpeckers

Pileated Woodpecker
Scientific NamePicidae
Type of AnimalBird
RangeWorldwide except for Australasia, Madagascar, and Antarctica.
DietOmnivore

Woodpeckers are primarily found in forests and woodlands and are characterized by a long, sticky tongue and a long beak. They use their sticky tongues to feed on insects found in trees and bushes, including ticks.

They also use their sharp beaks to kill ticks by devouring them.

Read Also: Can Woodpeckers be Black & White?

8. Guinea Fowl

Guinea Fowl
Scientific NameNumididae
Type of AnimalBird
RangeSub-Saharan Africa. It is an introduced species elsewhere.
DietOmnivore

Guinea Fowls are large, agile, and active birds that love to forage as they look for food. They are also not picky eaters and will feed on ticks. On average, a single guinea fowl can eat more than 1000 ticks on a single day.

They are constantly active and have excellent foraging skills. Ticks are mainly found in forage as they wait for host animals; thus, the superb foraging instincts of guinea fowls is an added advantage in hunting for ticks.

Additionally, guinea fowls also pick ticks from the host animal. They usually follow animal herds, making it easy to spot and prey on ticks. Once they spot a tick, they typically pick it and swallow it whole. This makes them excellent tick repellent and can rival the Opossum when it comes to preying on ticks.

Although they excel in tick prevention, they are still a menace. It is hard to control them, especially when left to roam in the yard. Unlike chickens, guinea fowls have excellent flight skills making them easy to escape.

9. Quails

Quail
Scientific NameGalliformes
Type of AnimalBird
RangeThere are New World and Old World Species
DietOmnivore

One bird that has been used in tick biocontrol programs in the United States is the quail. It is a tiny bird but perfects at hunting ticks.

Their natural habitats include grassland and open spaces, making them the perfect tick-eating bird. Additionally, quails have an immense appetite for creepy crawlies and forage in small groups, making it difficult for ticks to survive such an onslaught.

10. Turkeys

wild turkey
Scientific NameMeleagris gallopavo
Type of AnimalBird
RangeNorth America
DietOmnivore

Their large size makes them ideal for hunting ticks in the long grass. This is an added advantage, especially in areas that chicken, guinea fowls, and quails cannot penetrate or reach.

Although turkey commonly feeds on seeds, nuts, and fruits, their hefty appetite for insects makes them perfect for hunting ticks.

Their huge size also allows them to consume thousands of ticks daily. There are two types of turkeys, including commercially bred for meat and the heritage breed.

Commercially bred turkeys are not ideal for tick hunting because they are lazy and lack that natural instinct of foraging. However, the heritage breeds are natural foragers, have lighter and agile bodies. Their biological adaptation and behaviors allow them to forage and effectively feed on ticks.

Therefore, go for the heritage breeds if you want to rear turkey for tick prevention.

11. Spiders, Beetles, and Ants

ant
Scientific NameFormicidae
Type of AnimalMammal
RangeWorldwide
DietOmnivore

Ticks are also preyed on by other bugs, including spiders, beetles, and ants. These bugs are natural predators of ticks. Spiders commonly build their web in areas with plenty of food, such as grasslands. Furthermore, they eat anything trapped on their web, and ticks are no exception.

Ants are effective natural predators of ticks and will work hard to minimize their numbers. Beetles and ants have similar characteristics making them an effective alternative for reducing the numbers of ticks in your yard.

Note: Although not common, ticks also eat each other when they are hungry, and there is no other food source.

Conclusion

Apart from the oxpecker that can be considered to exclusively feed on insects, parasites, or bugs launched on host animals, the rest of the predators are opportunistic feeders and do not consider ticks as their primary food source.

Natural predators of ticks cannot keep away ticks, but they will surely make sure that their population does not spiral out of control. Therefore, having them around is an added advantage in preventing tick menace around your home.

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