Many birds are carnivorous and some eat snakes. These tend to be birds of prey, such as hawks, eagles, falcons and owls whose beaks, sharp talons, sharp eyesight and stealthy ways of hunting help them capture snakes that might be hard to subdue and venomous.
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Hawks and Falcons
Harris' Hawk, a bird about 17 1/2 inches long, will eat lizards, rabbits, rats and other birds, as well as snakes. It lives in the dry regions of the United States down to Central America, Chile and Argentina. Sometimes a group of Harris' hawks will hunt cooperatively.
Snakes are the main food of the Laughing Falcon, an 18-inch-long bird with a heavy bill that ranges from Central to South America. The bird will wait in a tree for a snake to pass below and then swoop down upon it. Then it will bite the snake behind the head and kill it, or bite the head off altogether. The Laughing Falcon, who gets its name from the noise it makes when it's disturbed, also eats lizards and small mammals.
The secretary bird is a 59-inch-long bird with very long legs for stalking pray in the savannahs and grassland of sub-Saharan Africa. It gets its name from the feathers at the back of its head that reminded people of quill pens secretaries used to tuck behind their ears. The secretary bird has a sophisticated technique for hunting snakes. When it comes upon one, it will open its wings, confusing the snake. The snake doesn't know where to strike, which gives the bird time to subdue and kill it. Secretary birds seem to have no problem taking snakes that are venomous, such as adders and cobras.
The shoebill is a 47-inch-long bird with a massive bill and long, stork-like legs. It lives in the swamps of East and Central Africa; and eats fish, frogs, lizards and watersnakes. When it flies, it tucks its head in and lets its legs trail behind, much like a heron. When it senses prey in the water, it seems to throw its whole body into the pursuit and will sometimes emerge from the water with a beak full of muck, as well as prey.
Eagles don't necessarily eat snakes, but the harpy eagle will. At 30 to 40 inches long, it lives in much of the same area as the Harris' hawk, though in the rainforests. It will also eat monkeys, possums and sloths it finds in the forest as well as snakes.
Found in North and South America, the burrowing owl, at 9 1/2 inches long with great yellow eyes that help it to hunt at dusk, also eats snakes, though it will eat insects, lizards, rats, mice and other birds. It uses the burrow of a small mammal as a nest. To hunt, it sits on a perch and waits for a snake or other prey to pass below, and then pounces on it. It can also swoop down and capture prey from the air.
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