Deer are vegans, strict herbivores, right? Wrong, according to a video that’s making its rounds — again. The folks at io9 ran a story Wednesday about a field camera that captured footage of a deer eating a bird (you heard it right). The site then posed the question: Do deer really eat birds? Apparently so, and that’s putting it lightly.
The story of the “bird-eating” deer took root back in 2010 when someone filming wildlife captured what looked like a buck going about his business grazing on a thickly-grown meadow. However, upon closer inspection, the deer was actually stalking an injured bird while it’s horrified family members dive-bombed him so their pal could take cover, to no avail. The inherently-decent part of you wants to believe the bird was inadvertently scooped up into the deer’s mouth along with a patch of fresh grass. However, the deer actually pauses to munch on the bird, eventually swallowing it, feathers and all (footage may be disturbing to some viewers).
Recently, scientists in North Dakota discovered something very astonishing. The researchers set up wildlife cams around the nests of song birds. They expected to record footage of weasels, squirrels, foxes, and other small mammals stealing eggs and an occasional chick as a bonus. All but the squirrels made a good showing.
However, a playback of the bird nest cams revealed that deer were eating birds, and it wasn’t an accident or one-time thing. To confirm their suspicions of the existence of bird-eating deer, scientists set up a special net designed to capture bats and small birds safely for further study. Cameras set up at the site revealed that numerous deer were preying on the struggling birds caught in the net. They were eating them alive, directly from the net.
As strange as this story sounds, there is evidence that many species of deer occasionally prey on birds. Even more shocking is that cows and sheep have been known to dine on birds and chickens. There’s the story of a cow that is said to have eaten over two dozen chickens. Imagine that?
Experts say deer that eat meat at times often do so likely to supplement their normal diet of grass and plant matter. The behavior is likely seen more during drought or extreme winters, when grass is dormant. Others say that even herbivores will become carnivorous in the face of an easy meal. The deer eating the injured bird in the video above is one such example.
Have your thoughts about Rudolph and Bambi changed after seeing the bird-eating deer video? Don’t let it — there are no rules in nature.
[Photo credit: Rob Stothard/Gettty Images]