What are piscivorous animals and their characteristics

Piscivorous animals are those that feed mainly on fish, although they commonly also consume other types of food. Some animals that eat fish are the pelican, the gharial, the osprey, the common kingfisher and dolphins, among many more. These animals have developed different adaptations throughout their evolution to be able to feed on fish easily.

In this article we will learn in detail what piscivorous animals are, their characteristics and various examples so that you can know them better.

What are piscivorous animals and their characteristics

Piscivorous animals are those that feed mainly on fish , whether freshwater or saltwater, taking advantage of their abundance throughout our planet. Piscivorous animals can belong to different taxonomic groups, such as mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians or fish , so this classification is not taxonomic, but based solely on diet.

As we have seen, radically different animals can be piscivores, but they all have certain similarities. Some of its common characteristics are:

  • They have morphological and physiological adaptations to capture and digest fish , which are their prey, such as sharp teeth, strong jaws, claws, beaks, tongues or specialized stomachs. If they cannot digest the hardest tissues, some piscivorous animals, such as birds, regurgitate all this material in the form of pellets.
  • They have highly developed senses to locate their prey, such as sight, smell, electroreception or echolocation.
  • They can show different hunting behaviors , which can be solitary or cooperative, such as stalking, ambushing, chasing or cornering.
  • As we have already seen, their diet is based on fish, but it can also include other types of food , such as crustaceans, mollusks, insects, amphibians, reptiles, birds or mammals. In this way we find strictly piscivorous animals and others that, although they base their diet on fish, have a broader diet.
  • They have an important ecological role by regulating fish populations and contributing to the balance of aquatic ecosystems.


There are 8 species of pelicans in the world, including the American white pelican ( Pelecanus erythrorhynchos ) and the brown pelican ( Pelecanus occidentalis ). These are aquatic birds that are characterized by having a large beak and a subjugular pouch that allows them to store the fish they capture . In this way, pelicans can use their beak as if it were a large fishing net, hunting groups of fish in each cast instead of catching them one at a time.


Gavialis gangeticus is a crocodilian reptile that lives in the rivers of India and Nepal. It has a long, narrow snout with about 110 sharp teeth that are used to catch fish. Although its appearance may be very fierce, its long jaws are used to catch fish almost exclusively, since this animal does not have a bite force as high as other crocodilians. Among its adaptations to the aquatic environment are an elongated and thick neck that allows it to catch its prey, webbed hind legs for swimming, and a long, laterally compressed tail that functions as a caudal fin.

Fishing eagle

Pandion haliaetus is a bird of prey that feeds exclusively on fish . It has strong, curved claws that allow it to catch fish swimming near the surface and hold them while flying. This beautiful raptor can be seen carrying fish up to two-thirds the length of its own body, throughout all the continents of the planet, except Antarctica. Although they prefer to fish in bodies of fresh water, it is also possible to see them catching fish in the sea, near the coast, on days when the sea is calm. Once it has taken hold of its prey, it orients it to face the direction of flight to achieve a more aerodynamic position and flies with it in its talons to a perch that is generally high and free of danger where it can devour it. The hard parts of the fish, such as spines and scales, are subsequently regurgitated in a ball of undigested material called pellet , which is highly appreciated by naturalists and the scientific community, as it can provide a lot of information on the health status of the bird. .

Sea lion

They are marine mammals that belong to the otariid family. They have a robust body adapted to swimming , with fins and whiskers. They feed mainly on fish , but can also consume other animals such as squid or crustaceans . There are many species of sea lions, some examples are the California sea lion ( Zalophus californianus ) and the Steller sea lion ( Eumetopias jubatus ).

common kingfisher

Kingfishers are a group of birds that are distributed across all continents except Antarctica, but in this case we are referring to the common kingfisher ( Alcedo atthis ), present in Africa, Europe and Asia, and a regular inhabitant of wetlands and lagoons. It is a small bird, no more than 17 centimeters. Its electric blue plumage and large elongated beak stand out , which is the tool with which it can capture fish by diving into the water . In addition, its plumage is especially well waterproofed, which allows it to get out of the water without soaking its feathers, thus preventing its weight from increasing and its flight from being hindered.


They are marine mammals that are part of the Delphinidae family. They have a hydrodynamic body and a highly developed brain that allows them to communicate and cooperate with each other. They feed on fish, squid and crustaceans , which they detect thanks to their sense of echolocation, which allows them to find their prey in dark waters or even in murky waters, as in the case of mangrove areas . Dolphins are found in all the planet’s oceans, and some of their most representative species are the bottlenose dolphin ( Tursiops truncatus ) and the striped dolphin ( Stenella coeruleoalba ).

Other piscivorous animals

  • Barracuda (Sphyraena barracuda)
  • Swordfish ( Xiphias gladius )
  • Red tuna ( Thunnus thynnus )
  • Gaviota reidora ( Chroicocephalus ridibundus )
  • Fishing stork ( Mycteria ibis )
  • Pez gato ( Ictalurus punctatus )
  • Walleye ( Sander walleye )
  • Alcatraz ( Morus bassanus )
  • Sea bass ( Dicentrarchus labrax )
  • Piranha ( Serrasalmus spp. )
  • Black stork ( Ciconia nigra )
  • Lobo marino (Zalophus californianus)
  • Nutria marina ( Enhydra lutris )
  • European otter ( Lutra lutra )
  • Cormorant ( Phalacrocorax carbo )
  • Garza cinerea ( Ardea cinerea )