Food is as critical to animals as it is to humans. It’s a basic need without which the planet wouldn’t have a single living organism. With that in mind, different animals and species have varying ways of looking for something to eat. Some like to hunt, others scavenge, while others simply sit and wait.
In the same breath, some animals forage. They search for wild food resources and do not depend much on anyone to provide for them. These animals have insane fitness levels, which are vital for survival. Here is everything you need to know about foragers.
Which Animals Forage
Forage animals rely on plants or parts of plants to survive. Over time, most have been domesticated, but their natural habits remain. Common foragers include:
Characteristics of Foraging Animals
Animals that forage do not grow or farm the plants they eat. Aside from the domesticated ones, foraging animals, therefore, have to find their food, making them nomads. They move around, looking for places with an abundance of water and food. Once the supply is depleted, they transit to the next.
Experts categorize foraging as a 3 stage process. The first involves visiting a patch with food and water, then consumption, and finally quitting. Note that the process of finding the perfect environment for foraging is ignored.
This is weird, considering an animal quits for almost the same reasons it looks for a feeding patch. Either way, foraging animals automatically know when to move or stay put.
Types of Foraging
Two main types of foraging animals are available. They include the following:
Whether they feed on plants or other animals, solitary foragers search and hunt for their food alone. This mostly happens when resources are abundant. Additionally, solo foraging minimizes the chances of interacting with others of a similar kind, leading to little competition.
In cases where the forager is a carnivore, hunting alone makes camouflage easier than group work. The South American harvester ant species, pogonomyrmex vermiculatus, is a perfect example of this.
As the name suggests, group foraging involves looking for food (hunting) and feeding as a pack. Success or failure doesn’t only rely on individual brilliance but a team effort. The main advantage is that a group of foraging animals have a better chance of finding a great patch or killing bigger prey.
On the other hand, competition is very high, and the predation threat is significantly reduced. However, several factors also contribute to this. They include the availability of path/prey and the group size.
What is the Most Common Forage?
Perennial legumes form a significant part of the forage system. They have deep roots and compound leaves suitable for foraging animals. Alfalfa is a perfect example of this. Grown in many parts of the world, the legume is one of the highest-yielding perennial forage crops.
Other grown perennial legumes include:
- Red clover
- Sweet clover
- White clover
- Kura clover
- Alsike clover
Aside from legumes, grasses are also a good food source foraging animals. Others include crop residues and aquatic feeds.
What is the Difference Between Forage and Pasture?
The terms “forage” and “pasture” usually appear in the same context and can sometimes be confusing. However, their meaning slightly varies; pasture refers to the place where forage crops thrive. On the other hand, forage refers to the plants grown on pasture land for foraging animals to feed on.
Food is a basic need for all living organisms; only how they get it varies. For foragers like cows, sheep, deer, and goats, foraging is the way. They look for patches of food and water and move once the resources are depleted. Legumes and grasses form the bigger chunk of foods that animals that forage rely on.