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Foraging Behaviour - How Animals get Food?

Updated on March 2, 2020


The process performed by the organisms for the sake of acquiring and attaining energy and nutrients to carry on growth, development, and reproduction is termed as foraging. The main goal of foraging is to figure out how to get the highest energy yield while giving out the least amount of energy. The term foraging refers to bunch of different behaviours for example it includes the direct consumption of food, hoarding (storing food for later utilization), or stalking a prey. The popular energy rich foods consumed by the organisms are carbohydrates, proteins and fats.

Foraging behaviour is basically all about the behaviour shown by the organisms which leads them to the energy they require for survival and reproduction. While foraging, animals mostly avoid the locations where there is either no or less encounter with the predators. For example, if a particular area has a high potential of nocturnal predators (hunt in the dark, rest in the light) then the animals living in that area will choose to forage during the day time and stay hidden in the night to avoid predation.

There are two ways in which an animal forage. One is “solitary foraging” and the other is “group foraging”. Solitary behaviour is when an animal looks for food by itself and capture and devours the prey alone. For example, some crows use sticks and hold them in there mouth to get larvae out of trees. When vultures see an egg they throw stones at it in order to break the shell. On the other hand, group foraging occurs when an animal finds, capture and consumes the prey along with its specie individuals. For example, pack of wolves and group of hyena’s. They travel together for the sake of finding prey.


Wolf is a carnivore animal. A wolf preys catches and preys on other animals. Wolves prey on large hoofed mammals also known as ungulates. Mostly in Minnesota, the primary prey of wolves is the white-tailed deer along with beaver, moose and some other mammals. Wolves also prey on sheep, oxen, elks, bison and mountain goats. These animals are well adapted to protect themselves against the wolves that’s why wolves tend to prey on the weak individuals.

Research says that a wolf needs around 3.7 pounds of meat per day. 2-3 times more is attained by the growing and reproducing wolves. Wolfs can go several days without a meal and then finally when hunger is reaching the limit they require over 20 pounds of meat in a single kill. Several observations have made on the foraging behaviour of wolfs. In Yellowstone national park of USA, despite the presence of other mammals, wolves tend to feed on the elks. Prey selection among the wolves varies a great deal during summer and winter. Elks are usually the prey of the wolves because of their vulnerability. However, in summer the there is a variety of options including other hoofed mammals like rodents. Wolves of the Yellowstone national park hunt in packs and first consume the highly nutritious organs, then the major muscle tissue, and followed by the bones. These wolves can also go without having a meal for several weeks.

Wolf Pack Hunts Together
Wolf Pack Hunts Together


The lions show group foraging behavior. They hunt in groups and make proper plans for surrounding their prey. This behavior allows them to prey a large animal which can also feed the whole group. Female lions coordinate very well during the hunting they know their role and perform it with accuracy. Female lions foraging behavior is different as compared to male lions they make a balanced decision for energy requirement and protection. They have to fulfill their energy needs but beside that they have to protect their young ones so they forage in small groups so that they have minimum risks of being preyed.


Eastern grey squirrels are common tree dwelling mammals found in North America. These squirrels are omnivores consuming many different foods from fruits and nuts, to eating small birds and reptiles. The diet of squirrels changes from season to season depending on which food is plentiful. During autumn the squirrels usually store their food items when it is plentiful and search for food and save for winter. They have to store large amount of food because squirrels don’t hibernate thus they require food in winter when the food is scarce.

Grey squirrels cache their food in a method called scatter-hoarding, they cache the item shallow in the ground near to where it was found. After this they rely on the memory of the location where they stored the food or by the smell of the food in winters.

Research was also conducted on the grey squirrels in response to Acorn. The squirrels had different response for two type of acorns i-e red oak tree acorns and white oak tree acorns. Squirrels tend to store red acorn and eat the white acorn. Most researchers have concluded that squirrels can distinguish between the two type of acorns and their response difference is due to the amount of tannin in the acorns. Red acorns taste bitter as they have more tannin in them while white oak tree acorns have less tannin thus can be consumed directly when found. While red oak acorns are left stored for winters which decrease the amount of tannin in the acorns with time thus can be eaten later. Thus from above studies we can see the distinct behavior of foraging in the squirrels.


Foraging is basically the behavior shown by the animals for the sake of attaining more nutrients with less use of energy. Different animals show different behavior to attain their food. Foraging is not just about attaining the food source. In fact, a bunch of behaviors come under the banner of foraging, such as finding for food, catching the prey and consuming it. Foraging is very much important for survival and reproduction of a specie.


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    • Bushra Iqbal profile image

      Aishatu Ali 

      2 months ago from Rabwah, Pakistan

      Good subject for an article. Thank you for an informative and well-written piece.


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