What Do American Alligators Eat? Top 5 Things in Their Diet

Florida’s vast wetlands hide a prehistoric predator. This animal’s presence echoes back to the age of dinosaurs. Do you know what it is? That’s right! It’s the American alligator.

The Alligator mississippiensis is an apex predator. This large, carnivorous reptile belongs to the Alligatoridae family. It’s found in several states in the US. Louisiana, Florida, and Texas have the largest alligator population in the country.

The American alligator has a broad, rounded snout. It has an armored body and fearsome jaws. Its 80 conical-shaped teeth are perfect for crushing prey. The American gator has one of the strongest bites in the animal kingdom. What do they use it for? This post will answer that.

What Do American Alligators Eat?

Many people wonder about the alligator’s diet, especially because it’s huge. This reptile’s size means it will need a lot of food.

Here are some interesting facts about alligators. They’re mercenary feeders. This means they take any opportunity to eat. These animals consume a variety of prey. Their food also depends on opportunity and availability.

The alligator’s diet also changes as they grow. Younger, and thus smaller, gators feed on small prey. They move to larger animals as they get older and bigger. Here are some things that are always on their menu.

  • Fish: A large part of an alligator’s diet is fish. Juvenile gators and sub-adults are dependent on it.  They often target bass, catfish, or gar. Gators are adept at catching fish. They use ambush tactics to snag their meal. They’ll wait until their unsuspecting prey swims near. Then they strike.
  • Amphibians and Reptiles: These two groups are also part of the gator menu. American alligators aren’t picky. They will eat frogs, snakes, and turtles. Adult gators even eat hatchlings. The alligator’s broad palate is an advantage. It ensures they have a viable food source within their habitat.
  • Birds: Waterfowl is also included in the alligator diet. These scaly reptiles hunt and eat ducks and herons. They’ll eat any bird that enters their habitat. The alligator catches birds by ambushing them. They will wait at the edge of the water for a bird to get near. Sometimes they’ll launch a surprise attack from under the water.
  • Mammals: These aren’t the usual alligator prey. They’re not off-limits though. Alligators eat small mammals like muskrats and raccoons. Any mammal that gets too close to the water is fair game.
  • Carrion: As mentioned, alligators are opportunistic. They eat carrion if they see one. This helps Florida’s ecosystem. The gator helps clean up carcasses. The nutrients are then recycled back into the environment.

How Do They Eat?

The American alligator is the best when it comes to hunting and feeding. It has the right anatomy and behavior for this. Their powerful jaws deliver a bone-crushing bite. They can also move in silence when needed. It’s what makes them effective hunters. How do these animals eat? They often do the following.

  • They ambush their prey. Alligators are patient hunters. They will wait for the perfect opportunity to strike. They also rely on stealth. They’ll hide in vegetation or the water.
  • They crush their prey with one bite. A gator will strike with lightning speed once its prey is near. They’ll use their powerful jaws to incapacitate or kill their prey.
  • They drown their prey. Alligators are experts at the drag-and-drown technique. They will drag their prey underwater once they have it in their jaws. They’ll then drown the animal by rolling around while submerged in water. This also allows the gator to tear off chunks of meat for easier consumption. But alligators are also known for swallowing their prey whole.
  • They have a slow digestion. The American gator has a slow metabolism. It takes several days to digest its food. The gator’s stomachs contain strong acids. This helps break down food and lets them extract the nutrients they need.

Discover Florida’s Amazing Wetlands

There’s more to the Sunshine State than beaches and food. Let Swamp Fever Airboat Adventures show you its hidden wonders. We’re one of the premier airboat ride operators in Florida. We’ll take you on a memorable tour of Florida’s wetlands. You’ll get the chance to see its unique flora and fauna. You can take selfies with alligators.

You can also learn more about Florida’s snakes, turtles, and rare birds. Why don’t you give us a call at 352-643-0708? We can organize a fun trip for you. You can also book a swamp tour here.