What Does a Hyena Eat?

Hyenas are skilled hunters and scavengers with a varied diet, ranging from small birds to large ungulates, bones included.

Hyena Dietary Basics

Hyenas have a reputation as scavengers, but they are also skilled hunters.

Spotted hyenas, in particular, are known for their ability to kill a wide variety of prey.

Their diet is deeply rooted in their role as both predators and scavengers in the African ecosystem.

They consume virtually everything from the prey they catch or find.

Being opportunistic eaters, they make the most of what’s available, which can range from small birds and mammals to large ungulates.

Hyenas are not fussy; they’ll readily scavenge carrion left by other predators.

Not only do they eat the flesh, but hyenas also consume bones, thanks to their incredibly powerful jaws.

Nutrients from bones, such as calcium and marrow, are a valuable part of their diet.

This robust dietary strategy indicates hyenas’ important role as carnivores in managing the African savanna ecosystem.

Hyena at sunset in golden grasslands.

Finally, hyenas’ feeding habits also reduce the spread of disease by consuming decaying animal carcasses.

In their way, these cunning creatures are the cleanup crew of their habitats, ensuring nothing goes to waste.

Types of Hyenas and Their Diets

A spotted hyena scavenging on a carcass, with its powerful jaws tearing into the flesh, while a striped hyena hunts and devours a small mammal

Each hyena species has a unique palate that dictates their dietary habits.

From the formidable hunters to the diligent scavengers, these carnivorous mammals showcase remarkable dietary adaptations.

Spotted Hyena Cuisine

Spotted hyenas, also known as laughing hyenas, are skilled hunters primarily indulging in large ungulates like wildebeest, zebras, and antelopes.

They often hunt in clans, demonstrating social cooperation, which makes them one of the most successful predators on the African savanna.

Spotted hyena cubs are weaned on their mother’s rich milk before transitioning to solid foods.

Brown Hyena Eating Habits

The elusive brown hyena (Hyaena brunnea), predominantly found in southern Africa, has a diet that is quite varied.

They feed on carrion, fruits, insects, and eggs, often using their strong jaws to crush bones.

Unlike their spotted cousins, brown hyenas are more solitary in their foraging habits.

Striped Hyena Feeding Patterns

Striped hyenas are mostly scavengers whose diet consists of carrion, fruits, insects, and occasionally small mammals and birds.

Their foraging is generally done alone, and unlike spotted hyenas, striped hyenas do not hunt large prey.

Aardwolf Diet Specialization

The aardwolf is a unique member of the hyena family with a diet almost exclusively composed of termites and other insects, making them specialized insectivores.

They use their long, sticky tongue to capture their prey, foraging primarily at night without destroying the insect mounds.

Human Impact and Hyena Diet Interaction

A hyena scavenges on a carcass, surrounded by trash and pollution.</p><p>Wildlife and human impact clash in the urban environment

In Africa, the intricate dance between human expansion and hyena existence unfolds, with both parties navigating a shared landscape that often leads to complex interactions.

Human settlements encroach on natural habitats, significantly influencing the diet of hyenas by both conflict and opportunity.

Hyenas Navigating Human Settlements

As they slip through the shadows of human settlements, hyenas adapt their foraging behavior to feast upon the readily available resources provided by humans.

A study in Northern Ethiopia showcases that hyenas’ diets are greatly impacted by human-related food sources, which include remains of slaughtered animals and other waste materials.

Such easy access to food has a two-fold effect; it draws hyenas closer to human environs, fostering a form of commensalism, but it also sets the stage for potential conflict, especially when livestock become unintended targets for these opportunistic feeders.

Hyena standing in tall golden grass.

Conservation Status and Diet

The spotted hyena, unlike their portrayal in popular media as mere scavengers, play a crucial role in the ecological framework as both predators and scavengers.

Their interactions with other large carnivores, like lions, shape the dynamics within their habitats.

However, the encroachment of human activity not only alters their natural diet but also has implications for their conservation status.

Appropriately managed, the presence of hyenas can indicate a healthy ecosystem, yet as human-wildlife conflict escalates and habitats shrink, their populations could face challenges.

A balance between conservation efforts and managing hyena-human interactions is vital for maintaining both the hyena populations and the health of their ecosystems.