What Are Omnivores? Definition & Examples Of Omnivores

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What Are Omnivores

Omnivores are the most flexible eaters, as they can survive on both meat and plant matter. In most cases, these animals will switch to whatever is available.

If their prey is scarce, they will switch to vegetation, and if vegetation is scarce, they will switch back to meat. This flexibility makes it easy to survive in different environments because they will have something to eat either way. 

Do you know any omnivorous animals? I assume you know a few, so let me add a few more to your list.

Read on to learn what omnivores are, examples of omnivores, and simple facts about them.

What are Omnivores

The term “omnivore” is derived from two Latin words, “Omnis” and “Vorare.” Omnis means all or everything, while vorare means to eat or devour.

Going by this definition, it’s fair to say that omnivores eat almost anything they come across. But to be specific, omnivores are organisms that obtain nutrients from both meat and plant matter.

Most omnivores evolved to have complex consumption capabilities, and, besides regular plants, omnivores can eat foods like algae, bacteria, and fungi into their diet. 

For example, pigs were herbivorous organisms, and they relied entirely on vegetation for nutrients. However, they evolved to become omnivorous. 

A pig eating on a grass field
A pig eating on a grass field

On the other hand, dogs were true carnivores but evolved to be omnivorous. Carnivores are organisms that obtain nutrients from meat. This means they are strictly meat eaters. 

All omnivores can be further classified into different categories depending on their feeding habits. These categories include:

  • Insectivores
  • Granivores 
  • Frugivores 

Insectivores are organisms that feed mainly on insects. So while they eat meat and plant matter, insectivores also consume insects. Swallows are in this category. 

On the other hand, granivores rely on seeds as their main source of food. They eat meat, too, but when it comes to vegetation, they prefer eating the seeds of these plants. Mice are good examples of granivores. 

Our last category, frugivores, refers to organisms that thrive on fruits, roots, seeds, nuts, and other succulent plant parts. An excellent example of a frugivore is a maned wolf. 

All of the above categories are omnivores, but they are classified differently because of their preferred foods and feeding habits. Omnivores enjoy food security and can survive in almost any environment. 

Being omnivorous also gives them the advantage of surviving in less consistent environments. So while other animals congest one environment that supports their feeding needs, omnivores wander about and make a home almost anywhere.

Examples Of Omnivores Animals: Common Omnivorous Organisms

Biologists argue that omnivores have no specific taxonomic groups. A taxonomic group, also known as a taxon, is “a group of one or more populations of an organism or organisms seen by taxonomists to form a unit.”

A good example of a taxonomic group is a species or a class.

According to scientists, omnivores are spread across taxons which makes sense because animals like bears belong to the order Carnivora but are classified as omnivores.

Other examples of omnivorous organisms include:

Examples of Omnivorous Animals

Examples of Omnivorous Animals
Examples of Omnivorous Animals

A huge number of animals in the animal kingdom are omnivores. Some of them include the following:

  • Pigs eat almost anything from fruits, flowers, small animals, and leftover human food. 
  • Sloths– These bear species prefer eating insects but eat fruits as well.
  • Rats– As previously mentioned, rats and mice are granivores, so they prefer eating grains. However, they still eat meat and cheese products.
  • Foxes– meat is the main source of food for foxes, but they also eat fruits, particularly berries. Sometimes they eat fungi, especially if they are dealing with food scarcity. 
  • Squirrels– These small animals feed on seeds, grains, and insects.
  • Humans– Humans are the perfect example of omnivorous animals. And yes, we are animals and belong to the animal kingdom. We eat anything from vegetables, fruits, meat, and even fungi. 
  • Gibbons– They thrive on insects and fruits.
  • Monkeys– Monkeys feed on lizards, nuts, and fruits.

It’s worth noting that while the above animals feed on the mentioned food items, this depends on availability and adaptation.

That said, you might find some of these animals eating a particular type of food depending on their surroundings. For example, foxes prefer eating meat, which makes some people assume they are true meat eaters.

Well, if the prey is scarce, you will find foxes eating different vegetation for food. Some foxes, especially those in populated areas, will look for something to eat in trash cans and devour anything they come across, be it meat or fruit. 

Simply put, omnivorous animals adjust to different types of foods depending on their species, living environment, preferences, and, most importantly, availability. 

Omnivorous Birds

Omnivorous Birds
Omnivorous Birds

Most people assume birds are herbivores and rely entirely on plants and seeds for food. The truth is, most birds are omnivorous. Let’s check out some of them and what they eat.

  • Chickens– These domestic birds eat wheat, corn, and insects. They obtain proteins from insects for optimal health.
  • Ostriches– Ostriches eat roots, seeds, lizards, and even snakes. They also eat small mammals like rodents.
  • Cassowaries– They feast on small animals and fruits.
  • Woodpeckers– Woodpeckers eat berries and different types of insects. They also like nuts and seeds of other plants.
  • Flamingos– These aquatic birds eat algae, mollusks, and small fish.
  • Swans– Their primary source of food is aquatic plants, but they don’t spare small fish and insects. 
  • Ducks– They like eating fish, particularly the small ones, aquatic arthropods, and berries. So as they enjoy floating on water, they will be looking for food to eat.
  • Hummingbirds– Hummingbirds eat different types of flowers, spiders, and other insects. 
  • Seagulls– They feast on small mammals, berries, and grains.

So you see, we have omnivorous birds as well, and these are just a few examples. Some of these birds, like ducks, are aquatic, while others, like chickens, are land birds. However, most of them are wild birds.

Examples of Omnivorous Reptiles

Examples of Omnivorous Reptiles
Examples of Omnivorous Reptiles

Most reptiles are primarily carnivores or herbivores. However, we have a number that also feeds on plants and meat. They include:

These reptiles mainly feed on fruits and vegetables like leafy greens, bananas, berries, carrots, and squash. For proteins, they consume meat and different types of insects.

The above reptiles are pet animals, so they adapt to eating other food items not found in the wild. Being omnivorous gives them this advantage.

Omnivorous Fish and Insects

Omnivorous Fish and Insects
Omnivorous Fish and Insects

We also have omnivorous fish and insects that rely on meat and plant matter for nutrients. Some of them include the following:

  • Catfish– These night feeders eat different aquatic plants as well as mollusks.
  • Piranhas– Piranhas eat anything from fruits and seeds to insects and carcasses. 
  • Cockroaches– These are scavengers that feed on almost anything that comes their way. From meat to any sweet food they come across.
  • Flies– Flies eat nearly everything, including blood.
  • Crickets– They eat nectar, leaves, and small insects. 
  • Pygmy grasshoppers– These grasshoppers eat plants and animal tissues. 

Simple Facts About Omnivores

Here are three interesting facts about omnivores:

Digestive System 

Omnivores have a unique digestive system that digests both meat and plant matter. For starters, their dental formula is well adapted to break down these two types of food.

Generally, most omnivores have long, sharp, pointed teeth to tear and rip off meat. They also have flat, strong molars to crush plants. Humans are the perfect example of omnivores with this dental formula.

However, some omnivores, like chickens, don’t have teeth to break down food. As a result, they swallow whole foods, which are broken down by digestive enzymes and softened by hydrochloric acid in the stomach.

Omnivores’ digestive systems are somewhere between those of herbivores and carnivores. However, unlike herbivores, they have limited ability to digest plant matter, so most of it is removed as waste.

They can survive in different environments

They can survive in different environments
They can survive in different environments

Due to their ability to digest meat and plant matter, omnivores can thrive in different environments as long as they still have food to eat.

Even better, most of them easily adapt to whatever food is available. This means that if their preferred option is unavailable, they will choose another food item. They can also adapt to new foods. 

They play an essential role in the food chain

Omnivores play an important role in the food chain as they help keep the animal population and vegetation growth in check.

Organisms in the food web or food chain are classified into three levels in the trophic system. Omnivores and carnivores are at the top of the food chain.

Removing any omnivore species may lead to a trophic cascade brought on by vegetation overgrowth and an overabundance of any organism that was part of their diet.

Explaining the definition of omnivores

Final Words

There are varieties of omnivorous organisms across the globe. From humans to birds, fish, reptiles, and even insects, you can spot an omnivore almost anywhere.

These fascinating organisms have unique digestive systems that can digest different types of foods, whether meat or plants. 

I think they’re the luckiest in terms of food security because either way, they will never starve, unless in extreme cases where there is nothing at all.

Photo of author


Jessica grew up in a household of furry pets. She learned from a young age just how loyal a dog could be and in her early years Jess and her Alaskan Malamute (Max) were inseparable. Jessica enjoys spending time with her dogs and other pets, usually going on walks in the afternoons. She believes having a pet is meant to be fun and enjoyable and not a stressful event. So she created Pets Farmhouse to share what she has learned (the good and the bad) so you can create that special bond with your pet too.