Have you ever wondered what fuels the cunning and elusive coyote, enabling it to thrive in diverse environments, from bustling cities to remote wilderness? What do coyotes eat?

what do coyotes eat

Coyotes, those cunning and versatile creatures of the Canidae family, have long fascinated researchers and nature enthusiasts alike. With their remarkable ability to adapt to a wide range of habitats, these highly intelligent predators have established themselves as one of the most successful carnivores in North America.

Coyotes are now widely distributed across North and Central America, highlighting their adaptability to various environments. Intriguingly, their dietary habits are pivotal in their triumph over various ecosystems.

Highly Adaptable and Opportunistic Predators

Coyotes possess an innate knack for survival. Their adaptability, partly due to their opportunistic hunting habits, enables them to easily thrive in natural landscapes and urban environments.

This species has demonstrated an extraordinary capacity to exploit the resources available within its habitats. It exhibits traits commonly associated with opportunistic predators, meaning it skillfully seizes any possible food sources within its reach.

Unlike many other carnivores who specialize in hunting a specific type of prey, coyotes are considered generalists, which allows them to capitalize on numerous food options when necessary. 

This adaptable nature enables them to navigate ever-changing circumstances such as fluctuating prey populations or shifting environmental conditions.

General Diet of Coyotes

As highly adaptable and opportunistic predators, coyotes have a diverse diet consisting primarily of small prey, birds, reptiles, amphibians, insects, and other invertebrates. 

This allows them to thrive in various habitats across North America. Their food sources vary depending on availability, but they primarily rely on animals, birds and their eggs, reptiles and amphibians, insects, and other invertebrates.

Main Food Sources

Coyotes eat small animals, which constitute a significant portion of their diet. They are skilled hunters who pursue prey through stealth and agility. Common small mammal targets include rabbits, squirrels, and mice. 

Rabbits are particularly favored due to their abundance and high nutritional value. Not all coyotes have the same diet, as different coyotes have different hunting skills and food preferences, including small rodents.

Eastern cottontail rabbits are the most commonly hunted species by coyotes in North America. In open grasslands and deserts, larger species like jackrabbits become preferred targets. Coyotes prey opportunistically upon other wild animal species, such as voles, groundhogs, and woodchucks.

what do coyotes eat
what do coyotes eat
what do coyotes eat

Birds and their eggs

Coyotes are known to take advantage of avian food sources when available. Waterfowl such as ducks and geese and their eggs are consumed during nesting seasons when proximity to water bodies increases the likelihood of successful hunting attempts. Game birds like quail, pheasants, and grouse may also be targeted if they cross paths with coyotes.

Furthermore, coyotes eat songbirds if nestlings or injured adults present easy opportunities for consumption. Coyotes help sustain bird populations by limiting prey populations and competing with other predators.

what do coyotes eat
what do coyotes eat
what do coyotes eat

Reptiles and amphibians

Coyotes exhibit an adaptable palate by including reptiles and other animals in their dietary repertoire. In regions with arid climates or where these creatures abound near water sources or wetlands, lizards form a common part of the menu for coyotes.

Snakes also appear in their diet, with various snake species targeted depending on availability. Coyotes may also opportunistically consume these amphibians during breeding seasons for frogs and toads.

Insects and other invertebrates

While larger prey items dominate the coyote’s diet, they do not oppose supplementing it with smaller creatures. When encountered, insects like grasshoppers, crickets, beetles, and worms are readily consumed. These invertebrates serve as a valuable source of protein and nutrients for coyotes, especially when other food sources may be scarce.

What Do Coyotes Eat?

Coyotes have a diverse array of prey, but small animals comprise a significant portion of their diet. Rabbits are especially preferred due to their abundance and nutritional value. Adult coyotes are skilled hunters of animals like rabbits, squirrels, and mice. Some will even hunt small dogs.

a group of rabbits running in a field, very intelligent animals, that typically hunt in the same environment

Eastern cottontail rabbits are the most commonly hunted species by coyotes in North America. These graceful creatures provide a valuable source of protein and are found in various habitats, making them an accessible prey item for coyotes.

In open grasslands and deserts, coyotes may target larger species like jackrabbits. Voles, groundhogs, woodchucks, and other wild mammals are other animals that become part of the coyote’s menu when other opportunities arise.

Birds and Eggs

Coyotes are opportunistic predators of birds and their eggs. During nesting season near water bodies, waterfowl such as ducks and geese and their eggs become an important food source for coyotes.

While they primarily target injured or weakened individuals or nestlings from songbird populations rather than healthy adults, they do not miss any opportunity to supplement their diet with avian species. Moreover, game birds like quail, pheasants, and grouse may be targeted by coyotes whenever they become available.

Reptiles and Amphibians

In addition to small animals and birds, reptiles and amphibians contribute significantly to a coyote’s dietary choices. Lizards are commonly consumed in arid regions where they thrive abundantly.

Coyotes have adapted remarkably well to consuming various snake species depending on availability within their habitat range. Frogs and toads are also opportunistically consumed during breeding seasons or if encountered during hunting pursuits.


While large prey items often dominate discussions about the coyote’s diet, it is worth noting that they also supplement their meals with insects and invertebrates. 

Grasshoppers, crickets, beetles, and worms contribute to the nutritional diversity of the coyote’s diet. These readily available invertebrates provide a source of protein and other essential nutrients that support coyotes’ overall health and vitality.

domestic dogs
domestic dogs
domestic dogs


What does a coyote eat? Does a coyote eat insects?

  1. Mammals: Such as rabbits, rodents (like rats and mice), deer (usually fawns or carrion), and even other predators like foxes.

  2. Birds: Including smaller species as well as bird eggs.

  3. Insects: Such as beetles, grasshoppers, and other large insects.

  4. Fruits and Vegetables: Including berries, apples, plums, watermelons, and other available seasonal produce.

  5. Livestock: In some areas, especially where their natural prey is scarce, coyotes might prey on sheep, goats, and poultry.

  6. Garbage and Human Food: In urban areas, coyotes might scavenge trash cans or pick up food left out by humans.

  7. Carrion: Regardless of the cause of death, dead animals can be a food source for coyotes.

It’s worth noting that a coyote’s specific diet can vary based on its habitat, season, and available food sources. Female coyotes dig their dens and care for their pups in protective dens.

What wild animals eat a coyote?

Coyotes sit near the top of the food chain in many of their habitats but have some natural predators. The primary predators of coyotes include:

  1. Wolves: Gray wolves, in particular, are known to kill, mainly because they compete for similar prey and territory.

  2. Mountain Lions: Also known as cougars or pumas, mountain lions sometimes prey on coyotes.

  3. Bears: While not common predators of coyotes, they can pose a threat, especially if a coyote gets too close to a bear‘s territory or its young.

  4. Golden Eagles: These large birds of prey have been known to attack and kill young coyotes, especially pups.

Humans also pose a significant threat to coyotes through hunting, trapping, and road accidents. In some areas, humans might target coyotes due to concerns about livestock predation or potential pet threats.


Coyotes’ dietary habits reveal their adaptability as opportunistic predators. Their consumption of mammals, such as rabbits, showcases their ability to exploit abundant prey sources for sustenance.

Furthermore, their opportunistic nature extends to birds and eggs, reptiles and amphibians, insects, and invertebrates. This wide-ranging diet ensures that coyotes can survive and thrive in various ecosystems.

Understanding what coyotes eat sheds light on their ecological role and emphasizes the importance of coexistence with these intelligent creatures. Let us appreciate these resourceful hunters while working towards peaceful integration within our shared environments.

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