Armadillos have an omnivorous diet, consuming both vegetation and other animals, although they are known to have a preference for insects. Despite their bony shell-like exterior and long thin tails, which make them appear half turtle and half possum, armadillos are actually mammals in every other aspect. This article will discuss the dietary habits of armadillos in the wild as well as their nutritional requirements when kept as pets. Additionally, it will provide information on what wildlife rehabilitators typically feed ill, injured or orphaned rescued armadillos. It should be noted that while armadillos are not often suitable or legal pets.
About Armadillos A Quick Overview
- Kingdom: Animalia (armadillos are classified as animals)
- Phylum: Chordata (armadillos have a notochord or backbone)
- Class: Mammalia (armadillos are endomorphs – warm-blooded mammals)
- Superorder: Xenarthra (armadillos are related to sloths and anteaters)
- Order: Cingulata (armadillos have exterior armor and birth live placental young)
- Family: Daysipodidae (this is the formal name for the armadillo family)
- Number of Species: 20 documented species of extant (surviving) armadillo species
- Biggest extinct armadillo species: Glyptodonts were the size of a small car!
- Biggest extant armadillo species: Giant armadillo
- Smallest extant armadillo species: Pink fairy armadillo
- North American armadillo species: nine-banded armadillo
- Armadillo diet: omnivorous (like people)
- Armadillo weight: between 3 oz. and 120 pounds
What Do Armadillos Eat?
If you were to converse with an armadillo and inquire about their preferred cuisine, they would most likely respond with a resounding “Insects!” as these protein-packed treats constitute approximately 90% of their diet throughout the year.
Despite being opportunistic omnivores, armadillos consume a variety of food to obtain the necessary nutrients for their bodies; however, due to their weak eyesight and hearing, one may question how they locate the insects and other foods that they enjoy eating.
It is fascinating that armadillos require only three instruments to locate insects and other delectable treats: their strong sense of smell, their lengthy adhesive tongues, and the long, pointed digging claws on their front paws.
What Do Armadillos Eat In The Wild?
Currently, there exist over 20 known species of armadillo worldwide. The tiniest armadillo, weighing less than a smartphone, has an average weight of only 3.5 ounces, while the heaviest armadillo, which is the largest in the world, weighs a staggering 120 pounds!
However, armadillos in the wild consume a uniform diet that varies according to the seasonal availability of food in their particular geographical regions.
Armadillos in the wild require soft foods that are easy to chew, swallow, and digest due to their simple teeth lacking specialized molars for grinding and incisors for piercing.
Armadillos tend to favor three primary types of food, namely bugs, small invertebrates, and vegetation.
Insects armadillos love to eat:
- Ants (including fire ants!)
- White grubs
- Wireworms and earthworms
- Moth and butterfly larvae, pupae and adult insects
- Wax worms and mealworms
- Snails and slugs
Small animals armadillos love to eat:
- Small snakes
- Newborn rabbits and birds
- Eggs of other animals such as quail and sea turtles
- Carrion and roadkill
Plants armadillos love to eat:
- Bark (probably to get at insects hiding underneath)
- Saw palmetto
- Seasonal berries
- Leaves and leaf molds
- Mushrooms and other fungi
- Plant roots and tubers
What Do Armadillos Eat In Captivity?
Armadillos are exclusive to North and South America, with the nine-banded armadillo being the only native species in North America. However, in regions where they coexist with humans, their survival is becoming more challenging.
Armadillos often get hit by vehicles, resulting in the death of many and leaving their young without parents. Injured adult armadillos may also be taken to a nearby wildlife rescue and rehabilitation center for treatment.
Although possessing an armadillo without a permit is prohibited, you might encounter one that requires transportation to a wildlife center for specialized attention, and in such instances, it would be beneficial to be aware of the types of sustenance suitable for rescued armadillos, both young and mature.
If you want to provide nourishment for adult armadillos that have been rescued, it is recommended to offer them small creatures such as grubs, slugs, snails, earthworms or mealworms that can be obtained from pet stores. However, taking care of baby armadillos requires specific attention and will be discussed in a subsequent section.
What Are Safe Foods for Armadillos?
Armadillos rely on their strong sense of smell, long adhesive tongue, and powerful digging claws to forage for a diverse range of food in the wild.
Nevertheless, armadillos undergoing rehabilitation have the ability to consume a diverse range of alternative foods that possess comparable nutritional characteristics, which can be safely provided to them in captivity.
- Armadillos can consume fish that has been cooked and had its bones removed, or they may eat sardines.
- Cooked or raw eggs
- Armadillos can consume softened cat or dog food pellets.
- Armadillos consume wet or damp food intended for cats or dogs.
- Armadillos have a preference for consuming soft fruits such as bananas or small berries.
- Armadillos consume soft tubers and vegetables such as pumpkin, potato, and squash.
What Should Armadillos Not Eat?
Armadillos are not selective eaters and can consume a variety of food items as they are opportunistic omnivores, including insects, fruits, plants, vegetables, roadkill, and carrion.
It is crucial to keep in mind that armadillos lacking specialized teeth are unable to crush, shred, pierce or mince their food, especially when they are sick or injured and require rehabilitation.
Removing bones from meat and fish and cutting raw fruits and vegetables into smaller pieces can lower the likelihood of choking and enhance the digestibility of meals.
How Much Do Armadillos Eat?
Due to the various shapes and sizes of armadillos, it is difficult to determine a standard daily portion size for a wild armadillo.
Armadillos come in various sizes, from as small as a flip phone to as large as some people, and their feeding habits are opportunistic, making it difficult to determine what they eat.
When Armadillos come across a plentiful food source such as a big roadkill or an enormous termite mound while searching for food, they tend to consume as much of it as possible in one sitting, which is known as gorging. This behavior can aid them in surviving periods of scarcity.
What Do Armadillos Eat As Babies?
The young of Armadillo are known as pups. The only type of Armadillo found in North America, the nine-banded Armadillo, consistently delivers quadruplets – four indistinguishable offspring that originate from a single egg.
Armadillos give birth to their young in burrows that the mother digs and take care of them. The initial few weeks or months (depending on the species) are crucial for the newborns, as they rely solely on their mother’s milk for sustenance.
Once they are sufficiently developed, young armadillos venture out of their burrows to acquire the skills of searching for their own sustenance, but they continue to suckle until they are completely weaned, which typically takes around two months for the nine-banded armadillo.
If you come across a wild armadillo pup, it is crucial to promptly find an experienced wildlife rehabilitation specialist. These young pups need a specific liquid diet that must be administered through a tube, with precise temperature and feeding intervals.
Feeding a young armadillo until they can consume solid food independently requires significant commitment and gentleness.
What Can Armadillos Eat?
It is a well-known fact that armadillos have a diverse diet and can consume almost anything that fits in their mouth and can be chewed and swallowed, but they exhibit a clear inclination towards insects, especially ants and termites which are their preferred food.
Have you ever witnessed an armadillo searching for its meal in the wild? Or perhaps at a zoo or wildlife sanctuary, have you observed them devouring their preferred insects by utilizing their robust claws and adhesive tongue to ensnare their prey?
We would appreciate your feedback on the Armadillo eating habits in the comment section below!
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