Peacocks are omnivorous birds, which means that they eat both plants and animals. They usually eat whatever is available to them in their natural habitat. But, what about snakes?
Do peacocks eat snakes? Yes. peacocks attack, kill, and eat snakes. But, snakes are not one of their go-to meals. Even though they occasionally eat snakes, not always kill snakes to eat. Just like the famous rivalry between mongooses and cobras, peacocks also hate the presence of snakes in their territory and attack immediately when they see them.
Even, there are interesting folklores about peacock and snake conflict. One of the folklore in Sri Lanka is that “cobra eggs get destroyed when peacocks squawk”. Peacock’s high-pitched screaming sound is annoying and disturbing even to us. But, the truth of these folklores are never investigated.
These may be myths, but people have a strong belief that snake density is very low in peacock territories. Due to this reason, farm owners keep peacocks on their farms to reduce the troubles they get from snakes.
What snakes do peacocks eat?
Peacocks are large birds that can be more than four feet tall and longer than eight feet (including the train). So, they can even attack and kill large snakes if they want. But, what snakes do peacocks eat actually? Are they selective?
The Peacock diet consists of a variety of fruits, vegetables, seeds, insects, frogs, small lizards, and rodents. They are not much selective when it comes to eating. But, you can see most of their preferred animal food is smaller prey.
So, in the same line, when it comes to snakes, they more often eat small snakes since it is an easy catch for them. But, since peacocks do not like the sight of a snake, they may attack and even try to kill any snake that they see irrespective of its size.
And that may be the reason it was called “Mayura” (meaning “killer of snakes”) in the Sanskrit language (which is used in India).
But, do peacocks eat venomous snakes?
Yes. Peacocks eat both venomous and non-venomous snakes. They are known for killing and eating even highly venomous snakes such as rattlesnakes and cobras. But, how do they do that without getting killed?
Are peacocks immune to snake venom?
Some actually think that peacocks are also poisonous and they have immunity to the venom of snakes. But, that is false. Peacocks are not immune to venom. And, also they are not poisonous. Peacocks are not the only birds that attack, kill and eat snakes.
So, what will happen to the peacock, if a snake somehow injects its venom into the peacock? The peacock will most definitely become weak and it has to give up the attack. And if the attacked snake is highly venomous such as the king cobra, then, the peacock may even die from the snake’s venom. So, a snake can kill a peacock, but it is extremely rare since peacocks are well-adapted to snake hunting.
Let’s look at how peacocks are capable of killing snakes and even eating them without harming themselves.
Firstly, let’s look at how peacocks kill snakes.
Peacocks use their short curved bills and strong claws when attacking prey and predators. So, when they attack snakes they do the same. If the snake is tiny, they peck and kill it straight away. When eating, peacocks swallow whole small snakes.
But, if the serpent is larger, such as a king cobra, peacocks use their strong claws to tightly grab it from the neck and shake and peck it until it dies. They hold the snake by the neck to make sure it can not turn its head and bites and injects its venom.
Peacock’s bill is also sharp and strong so, when they peck, it can cause serious damage to the snake, so the snake gives up its resistance quickly.
However, peacocks do not always kill large snakes to feed them. Most often, they satisfy with just killing it.
Why do peacocks not get killed when eating venomous snakes?
There is a clear difference between venomous and poisonous. Venomous snakes are snakes that can inject venom (a special type of poison) into their prey or the threat. So, what can venom do to the body?
It all depends on the type of venom and the amount that enters the body. In order to be effective, venom needs to mix into the bloodstream through a wound. Some venoms can cause minor discomfort, while others can be life-threatening. It can make blood vessels leak and tissues swell. In severe cases, it can cause paralysis and death.
We can find many venomous snakes. But, you will not find poisonous snakes (or they are extremely rare). So, what’s the difference? Poisonous animals, such as Dart Frogs, would produce and discharge a substance (toxic) so that anyone who has contact with it will ingest poison. They do this to ensure that they don’t get eaten by predators. But, snake venom has to be injected into the bloodstream to make it work. So, there is a clear difference.
What if the peacock swallows venom when eating a venomous snake?
Venom is a complex mixture of more than 20 compounds. Mostly it includes proteins and polypeptides, and substances with lethal toxicity that can harm either the nervous system or blood components. And, peacocks’ digestive system can break the venom and absorb it into the body with no harmful effect at all. So, eating venomous snakes will be like eating any other animal to a peacock.
However, if venom enters to the bloodstream through a wound in the digestive tract, it will affect similar to a snake bite. It can kill the peacock. And also, peacocks will get health issues, if it eats a snake infected with bacteria, viruses, parasites, or contaminated with heavy metals.
Why peacocks and snakes are enemies?
Peacocks are not the only birds that kill and eat snakes. Eagles, hawks, storks, and several other birds do the same. But peacocks are popular as snake hunters. There are a few reasons for that.
Snakes are one of the items in peacock’s diet, though it does not often select them. Hence, whenever a peacock wishes to taste a snake and when there’s an opportunity, they will go for it. Since we give much attention to peacocks due to their glamorous look, more often, we notice them eating snakes more than other birds. That’s one reason why we consider them as snake hunters.
And, also peahens build their nest on the ground. They scrape a hole in the ground and then use sticks and leaves to border it. Since snakes eat bird eggs and ground nests of peacocks are easily accessible to them, peacocks annoy them in their territories.
So, on most occasions, peacocks attack and kill them or scare them away to make the nesting ground safe.
However, even though peacocks treat snakes as enemies, no evidence to say that any particular snake specifically prefers peacock eggs or tries to attack peacocks just for the sake of attacking. They attack peacocks only to protect themselves, and to avoid being killed by the bird.
So, peacocks and snakes are not enemies per se. Peacocks are one of the predators of snakes. On the other hand, snakes will eat peacock eggs if they get a chance. But, it can rarely happen since peahens are very protective of their nests.
So, when a snake encounters a peacock, it will try to avoid it and move away quickly.
Peacocks keep snakes away: Are they good as pets?
Now, we know that peacocks will keep snakes away from their territory. Having a peacock as a pet at home seems to be a good solution for the snake problem if you are facing such an issue.
But, that shouldn’t be the only reason to have them. Before deciding on having a peacock at home, you need to check and be concerned about the following factors.
- Is it legal to have a peacock as a pet in your country or state: In USA and Canada, you can keep peacocks as pets at home. But in some countries, such as India, it is illegal.
- Can you provide the space that the peacock needs: Peacocks are large birds. And, it prefers space as well. Hence, allocate enough space for them to freely live.
- Peacocks can attack humans (especially kids) and also they are noisy: Their squawk can be annoying to your family or neighbors. And, also it is required to learn how to interact with peacocks without getting attacked, especially during their breeding season.
- Dogs and other predators may attack peacocks
- Need to look after peacocks’ food and health: Peacocks are omnivores and they need nutritious food to maintain their beautiful plumage and health.
- Peacocks can fly away if it is not monitored
- Peacocks thrive when they have companions: You may need to keep more than one peacock at home to make them feel good and happy.
Peacocks eat snakes. But snakes are not one of their regular meals. Since peacocks are opportunistic eaters, when they see a snake that they can easily kill and eat, they go for it. However, mostly they eat small snakes.
Can peacocks eat venomous snakes? Yes. they do not get any harm eating venomous snakes since venom is effective and becomes toxic only when it mixes with the bloodstream.
Peacocks do not like snakes roaming in their territories. Especially, since snakes will eat peacock eggs if they get a chance. Hence, especially during the breeding season, peacocks attack and either kill or scare away even large snakes like king cobras. So, snake density is low in peacock territories.