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White-nosed Coati (Nasua narica) Fact Sheet: Diet & Feeding


Mainly fruits and leaf-litter arthropods

(Enders 1935; Wallmo and Gallizioli 1954; Kaufmann 1962; Russell 1982; Gompper 1996; Hirsch and Gompper 2017, and as noted)

  • Plants (high-energy carbohydrates)
    • Large diversity of fruits (e.g., palms, ficus) (Valenzuela 1998)
      • Includes cultivated fruits (e.g., apples, figs, garden vegetables) (Valenzuela 1998)
  • Arthropods (protein)
    • Beetles
    • Grasshoppers, crickets (Valenzuela 1998)
    • Spiders, scorpions (Valenzuela 1998)
    • Crabs (Valenzuela 1998)
  • Worms

Occasional diet items

(e.g., Wallmo and Gallizioli 1954; Risser 1963; Kaufmann et al. 1976; Valenzuela 1998; Kays 2009a, except as noted)

  • Vertebrates (make up a small party of diet, only)
    • Frogs
    • Lizards
    • Snakes
    • Rodents
    • Birds and their eggs
    • Sea turtle eggs
  • Carrion
  • Discarded human food (i.e., from trash)
  • Diet can include pollen and nectars in harsher regions (McColgin et al. 2003)


Finding food

  • Opportunistic foragers (Kaufmann 1962)
    • Switch between foraging for fruit and invertebrates (Hirsch et al. 2013)
  • Search for food mainly on ground and also in forest canopy (Kaufmann 1983; Gompper 1995; Cuarón et al. 2015)
    • Sniff along ground; do not dig with nose
  • Find food by smell, rather than sight (Chapman 1938; Wallmo and Gallizioli 1954; Kaufmann 1962; Gompper 1995)
    • Memory also likely plays a role, similar to Nasua nasua (e.g., Hirsch et al. 2013)
    • Extract invertebrates from under logs/bark, clumps of debris, and burrows using powerful forelegs
  • In Nasua nasua, group position and spacing influence foraging success, as well as predation risk (e.g., Hirsch 2011; Hirsch et al. 2020)

Food handling

  • Fruits (Kaufmann 1962; McClearn 1992a)
    • Use front feet to open hard-skinned fruits
      • Hold against ground or branch
      • Lick fruit juice and pulp off of one paw
    • May open softer fruits with snout or swallow small fruits whole
  • Invertebrates (Kaufmann 1962; Krinsley 1989; Gompper 1995, and as noted)
    • Pounce on large invertebrates with forepaws
    • Pin or roll against ground
    • Quickly kill prey with harmful bites, stings, spines, and hairs (Ingles 1957)
  • Vertebrates
    • Usually pinned down and bitten through the skull (Kaufmann 1962)


  • Drink from forest streams (Kaufmann 1962)
  • Visit waterholes (Burger and Gochfeld 1992)
    • In groups, some members drink while others watch for predators
    • Prefer to drink in shaded areas with canopy cover
  • Upturn nose while drinking to prevent immersion (Krinsley 1989)

Reach for the Fruit

White-nosed coati climbing tree trunk

White-nosed coatis spend most of the day foraging on the ground but can easily climb trees to reach food.

Coatis have powerful forelegs that they use to climb for fruit or flowers, or to dig for burrowing invertebrates (for example, worms and spiders).

Image credit: © Tom Murray / Flickr. Some rights reserved; CC BY-NC 2.0.

Image location: Puerto Jimenez, Osa, Costa Rica

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