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Nile Crocodiles (Crocodylus niloticus & C. suchus) Fact Sheet: Diet & Feeding


Predatory diet

  • Diverse diet
    • Prey changes as crocodiles grow
    • May scavenge on carcasses
  • Juvenile diet
    • Youngest juveniles are insectivorous (from Cott 1975)
      • Consume water-bugs, dragonfly nymphs, beetles, spiders, mole crickets, frogs, snails
    • Older juveniles take more small vertebrates and invertebrates
      • Eat freshwater crabs, snails, toads, frogs, turtles, small birds and rodents
  • Adult diet
    • Kill and eat almost anything that moves
      • May feed on smaller prey when available; E.g. frogs, crabs, and fish
    • Fish are mainstay of diet
    • Consume medium to large terrestrial mammals
      • Feed on impala, bushbuck, water buck, giraffes, buffalo, young hippos, hyenas, wild dogs, porcupines, and lions in Kruger National Park (South Africa) (Grenard 1991)
      • May consume up to 20% of body mass in one meal
    • Known to eat humans
      • In Kruger National Park, more humans killed by crocodiles than by all other predators combined (including snakes) (Grenard1991)

Eat rocks

  • Gastroliths (rocks) often found in the stomach (from Brazaitis 1969; Cott 1975)
    • May account for c. 1% of total body weight
    • Young crocodiles lack gastroliths in the stomach
    • Reasons for ingestion
      • To help maintain buoyancy in the water
        • Useful when lying on the river bottom
      • Added weight helps to subdue struggling prey
      • To lower the center of gravity and gain stability in the water

Feeding & Prey Capture

Prey capture and immobilization

  • On land
    • May ambush prey in overhanging tree branches or near the shoreline
      • Silently swim underwater until near shore
        • May surface, with eyes above the water, to check position
      • Launch body out of the water to grab prey
        • Can lunge several times own body length out of the water, onto land
      • Tail bats at birds in reeds
        • Tail bends reeds down and flips birds into water
    • Drag prey into water and drown; dismemberment in water (Pooley & Gans 1976)
  • In the water
    • Dismember large prey items
      • Crocodile takes hold of prey and rotates in the water until a piece is torn away
  • Reports of cooperative predation
    • When feeding on an animal that is small enough that it turns in the water along with the crocodile, a second crocodile often helps to hold the prey and they both feed (Pooley & Gans 1976)
    • Two crocodiles have been observed walking over land, carrying a carcass of a nylala antelope between them (Pooley & Gans 1976)
    • Young crocodiles have often been seen forming a semi-circle in a flowing stream, facing oncoming water with fish, snapping up the fish and not fighting among themselves for this prey (Pooley & Gans 1976)

Food requirements

  • Survive for long periods without feeding
    • Nesting females generally fast

Wildebeest Prey

Nile Crocodile and prey

Image credit: © Steve Garvie from Flickr. Some rights reserved.

Page Citations

Brazaitis (1969)
Cott (1975)
Grenard (1991)
Pooley & Gans (1976)

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