What Do Saltwater Crocodiles Eat?

The saltwater crocodile is a typical crocodile species for it can spend days or even weeks in starvation. But the crocodile is not really selective in its feeding habits. It has a varied diet and rarely does it rely on a single prey animal. That indeed makes saltwater crocodiles less opportunistic hunters. However they do have the ability to take down animal of almost any size—from adult zebra to a wild boar. Now you probably want to explore what do saltwater crocodiles eat in detail.

What Do Saltwater Crocodiles Eat in the Wild?

Depending on the age, saltwater crocodiles eat just about any animal ranging from insects, reptiles, birds, arthropods, to mammals. Young crocodiles are thought to feed on small fish, marine invertebrates, frogs, and insects. The hatchling’s diet also consists of amphibians, molluscs, cephalopods, medium-sized mammals, gastropods, saltwater fish, crustaceans, snakes, birds, and lizards.

When a croc grows up to 1.2 m (3.9 ft) in length it prefers to eat more vertebrates than invertebrates. Small mammals also begin to make up most of the young croc’s diet. As the crocodile grows with age the diet becomes more varied. However the saltwater crocodile never stops eating smaller animals even when it achieves the maximum size.

The saltwater crocodile has the widest range of animals in its diet. In crustaceans the crocodile prefers to feed on mud crabs especially those that belong to the genus Scylla. Crocodiles inhabiting the mangrove habitats are most likely to rely on mud crabs. Similarly saltwater crocodiles also consume emu bird, water birds as well as magpie goose. Prominent among birds is the magpie goose which often fall prey to the crocodile.

what do saltwater crocodiles eat
The saltwater crocodile is eating a buffalo. ©howieswildlifeimages.com

The crocodile can also prey bats and wading birds but the latter is slightly difficult because wading birds rarely swim on the surface of water. Common sandpiper also becomes the prey to the saltwater crocodile.

In mammals the adult saltwater crocodile would rather go for medium-sized ungulates. This includes hog deer and the greater mouse-deer. The crocodile’s diet also comprises crab-eating macaques, long-tailed macaques jackals, wallabies, mongoose, proboscis monkey, civets, gibbons, hares, fishing cats, badgers, flying foxes, rodents, turtles, otters, and chevrotains.

Although less so often, the saltwater crocodile also consumes crabs and fish. Most of the croc’s diet consists of birds and mammals because they are accessible. Freshwater crocodiles eat cane toad but saltwater crocodiles do not. The cane toads are highly toxic and the saltwater crocodiles likely hesitate to eat dangerous animal such as this.

What Mammals Do Saltwater Crocodiles Eat?

The younger crocodile which is only few years behind maturity is thought to prey animal as large as a goat. It clearly suggests that they become skilled hunters during adulthood.

Saltwater crocodile’s diet also includes samba deer, kangaroos, water buffaloes, dingoes, gaur, Malayan tapirs, banteng, and orangutans. Saltwater croc also eats domestic livestock such as horses, chicken, and sheep but these are only consumed occasionally.

The crocodile also preys on saltwater species which largely includes sea turtles, dugongs, rays, sawfish, bonyfish, sea birds, and sea snakes. They typically prey animals on the coastal areas probably because the female sea turtles build nest on the coastal water. Saltwater crocodile knows it all too well! The crocodile also hunts pelagic fish which are only few kilometers from the shore.

How Do Saltwater Crocodiles Hunt?

Like most other crocodiles the saltwater crocodile also hunts by swimming gradually towards its prey while only exposing its eyes. As the croc approaches the prey it pounces within a second and drags it into the water again. Nile crocodiles and alligators can hunt on land but saltwater crocodiles lack such ability.

If the prey is too large to be swallowed directly then the crocodile drags it into the water and attempts to drown it. Sometimes it also smashes the animal against the nearby rock or simply kills the prey in death roll. In a death roll crocodiles grab the animal and roll it multiple times until the animal dies. With the most powerful bite of 16,414 N (3,690 lbf) in the entire animal kingdom the saltwater crocodile gives the animal no chance to escape from death.

References

Taylor, J. A. (1979). “The foods and feeding habits of subadult Crocodylus porosus Schneider in northern Australia”. Wildlife Research. 6 (3): 347–359. doi:10.1071/WR9790347.

Davenport, J.; Grove, D. J.; Cannon, J.; Ellis, T. R.; Stables, R. (1990). “Food capture, appetite, digestion rate and efficiency in hatchling and juvenile Crocodylus porosus”. Journal of Zoology. 220 (4): 569–592. doi:10.1111/j.1469-7998.1990.tb04736.x.

Messel, H., & Vorlicek, G. C. (1989). “Ecology of Crocodylus porosus in northern Australia”, pp. 164–183 in Crocodiles: Their Ecology, Management and Conservation. IUCN. ISBN 2880329876

Blumstein, D. T.; Daniel, J. C.; Sims, R. A. (2003). “Group size but not distance to cover influences agile wallaby (Macropus agilis) time allocation”. Journal of Mammalogy. 84 (1): 197–204. doi:10.1644/1545-1542(2003)084<0197:GSBNDT>2.0.CO;2.

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