Peacocks do eat snakes, but only if they are hungry. They eat pretty much anything that they can get their hands on – plants and meat alike. In fact, they belong to the ‘opportunistic feeders’ category. They eat grains, other animals, birds, and scavenge from time to time.
As they are averse to snakes, peacocks will kill and eat them. A peacock will tackle any snake, no matter the size, whether they are venomous or non-venomous. If the snake is small enough, the peacock will swallow it whole. If it is too big, the peacock may or may not eat it.
In India, peacocks are called ‘mayura,’ which when translated means “the killer of snakes.”
This is because they have the reputation of scaring away and eating cobras.
In Science, the habit of hunting and killing snakes is called ophiophagy. To that effect, peacocks are Ophiophagus birds. Other Ophiophagus birds include pheasants, turkeys, and geese.
Why Do Peacocks Eat Snakes?
Peacocks eat snakes for various reasons. First, peacocks are opportunistic feeders. While snakes are not their main diet, they will take advantage of the opportunity when it presents itself. Moreover, snakes happen to contain proteins that peacocks need for nutritious purposes.
Furthermore, peacocks hate it when snakes roam within their territory. This is because snakes eat eggs, and peacock eggs are easily accessible. Therefore, it can be deduced that snakes eat snakes to protect their younglings.
Peacocks make their nests by digging holes in the ground, where the peahens (female peacocks) can lay their eggs. As snakes move on the ground, they can easily find and access these holes, and subsequently, the eggs. Naturally, peacocks will kill or injure what they consider their enemies, and as they are opportunistic, devour them.
The habitat of peacocks also determines whether or not they will eat snakes. Peacocks that are kept as pets or in an animal orphanage are often fed poultry feed such as grains. In this case, it would be rare to find a peacock eating a snake unless it is brought to them.
However, peacocks that live in the wild encounter snakes more often – they share a habitat with snakes, after all. Once a peacock kills and eats a snake enough times, it becomes a habit, and as a result, snakes become part of their diet.
Peacock vs Snake
Here’s some footage of peacock encounters with snakes. As you can see, they will be curious, but usually leave each other alone, especially if the peacock is not hungry:
How Do Peacocks Kill and Eat Snakes?
When a snake and a peacock encounter each other, their fights tend to be intense. A peacock has a clear edge over a snake for various reasons. One of those reasons is size and body mass. A peacock is heftier compared to a snake, and that translates to strength.
Peacocks have incredibly strong, long scaly legs with sharp claws. They use the claws to tackle the snake by holding it by the neck and shaking it violently until the snake dies. Armed with solid and pointed beaks, the peacock also nibs at the snake bloody until the snake gives in.
At this point, the peacock swallows the snake whole, especially if the snake is tiny enough. If the serpent is enormous, say, King Cobra, the peacock may be satisfied with just killing it. On some occasions, though, the bird may eat various parts of the big snake.
Additionally, peacocks have potent senses of hearing and vision. Thus, it tends to spot the enemy from quite a distance and get into defense or attack mode in good time.
If by rare chance, a venomous snake manages to bite the bird during the fight, it injects the venom into the peacock’s system, causing the bird to weaken by a certain degree. When this happens, the peacock may not be able to fight back. This is why the peacock will hold a snake by the neck during an altercation- to avoid being bitten.
Related Article: How Much Does a Peacock Cost?
Do Peacocks Eat Venomous Snakes?
Peacocks eat venomous snakes just as they would any other food. They are primarily known for killing and consuming deadly snakes such as cobras and rattlesnakes.
It appears as though venomous snakes are not toxic to peacocks when ingested. The best explanation for this is that the components of venom, a mixture of proteins and peptides, are easily digestible in the bird’s system.
A problem would occur only when the snake is infected with viruses, parasites, and bacteria. Only then would the peacock be in danger of getting sick.
Are Peacocks Immune to Snake Venom?
While peacocks can comfortably eat venomous snakes, they are not exactly immune to snake venom. This is why peacocks really avoid being bitten during fights with snakes.
Luckily, they are also adapted to prevent snake bites as they have scaly feet, thick feathers, and strong claws. Thus, a snake would have to be highly tactful to be able to bite and inject venom into a peacock’s body.
The effects of a snake’s venom on a peacock are not that clear, because let’ face it- it does not happen that often. Still, when a snake bites a peacock, the peacock will likely lose the fight.
What Else Do Peacocks Eat?
Apart from snakes, peacocks eat a wide range of other foods. Snakes are not the main food that peacocks eat. They would sooner eat other foods, but since they are opportunistic feeders, they will eat whatever presents itself.
Typically, peacocks forage for plant diets such as grains, grasses, flowers, and seeds. Also, they eat insects and small animals such as rats, mostly because they are rich in proteins. They also don’t spare small reptiles and amphibians- snakes fall in this category.
Peacocks spend a big chunk of their days on the ground looking for something to eat. They have the advantage of great hearing and sight capabilities that enhance their hunting activities.
Additionally, the habitat of peacocks tends to determine the kinds of food they eat. In their native habitat, peacocks are mostly omnivorous. However, when raised in captivity, the diet of these glorious birds mostly consists of commercial food and poultry feed.
More Animals that Eat Snakes:
As wondrous as peacocks are, it can be difficult to imagine that they are so feisty as to kill and eat snakes. Averse to snakes, these birds do not miss the opportunity to fight, injure and eat serpents. In some communities, peacocks are used to keep snakes and other reptiles at bay.
Essentially, peacocks make use of their strong claws to tackle snakes and their pointed beaks to pick at them until the snake dies. After that, the bird will swallow the dead snake whole, especially if it is small. For the bigger snakes, a peacock may or may not eat them.
Joe is a freelance writer for FaunaFacts. Joe has written extensively about snakes for the site, but also contributes content about a range of animals.