13 Common Prey Items For Rattlesnakes


Rattlesnakes are renowned for their venomous bite and stealthy hunting abilities. These predators help control rodent populations in their habitats, making them an essential part of the food chain. They exhibit a diverse palate when it comes to prey selection. Keep reading for more information on their varied diet.


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Rattlesnakes are voracious predators of rodents such as mice, rats, and voles. These small mammals constitute a significant portion of the rattlesnake’s diet and are often ambushed near their burrows or along foraging paths, providing a readily available food source.



Ground-nesting birds like quails, grouses, and pheasants fall prey to rattlesnakes, especially during nesting seasons when eggs and chicks are vulnerable. Rattlesnakes utilize their stealth and ambush tactics to capture unsuspecting birds, contributing to the regulation of avian populations in their habitats.



Rattlesnakes prey on various lizard species, including skinks, geckos, and iguanas. They target these reptiles opportunistically, lying in wait for them in rocky outcrops, desert scrublands, and other habitats where both predators and prey thrive.

Frogs and Toads


Amphibians like frogs and toads are also on the menu for rattlesnakes, particularly in riparian and wetland habitats where they occur. Rattlesnakes may ambush these semi-aquatic creatures as they venture onto land. 

Insects and Arthropods


While less common, rattlesnakes have been known to consume insects and arthropods opportunistically. These smaller prey items may be targeted during periods of food scarcity or high metabolic demand, demonstrating the flexibility of rattlesnakes in their dietary preferences.

Other Snakes


Rattlesnakes exhibit cannibalistic tendencies, preying on smaller or weaker individuals of their own species. Additionally, they may consume non-venomous snake species, further expanding their dietary breadth and demonstrating their adaptability as apex predators in their respective ecosystems.

Rabbits and Hares

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Larger prey like rabbits and hares are occasionally targeted by rattlesnakes, particularly in habitats where these mammals are abundant. Rattlesnakes may lie in ambush near rabbit burrows or along game trails, waiting to strike and subdue their quarry.

Chipmunks and Ground Squirrels


Chipmunks and ground squirrels are common prey for rattlesnakes, especially in grassland and woodland habitats where these rodents are abundant. Rattlesnakes may utilize their burrows as hunting grounds, waiting for them to emerge and providing an efficient means of prey capture.

Small Carnivores


Rattlesnakes have been known to prey on small carnivores such as weasels, ferrets, and shrews. These opportunistic hunts may occur when rattlesnakes encounter these mammals in their habitat, demonstrating their ability to target a diverse range of prey items for sustenance.



In aquatic habitats, rattlesnakes may prey on fish species that inhabit streams, ponds, and marshes. Although less common, rattlesnakes have been observed hunting fish by waiting near water bodies and striking at passing prey, showcasing their versatility in exploiting diverse ecosystems.

Nesting Birds


Nesting birds, including songbirds and waterfowl, may be preyed upon by rattlesnakes when their nests are within striking distance of these predators. Rattlesnakes may climb trees or utilize elevated vantage points to access nests and consume eggs or young chicks.

Ground-Nesting Reptiles


Ground-nesting reptiles like tortoises are occasionally targeted by rattlesnakes, particularly in habitats where the species coexist. But this is only in sporadic cases, as they prefer warm-blooded prey. Rattlesnakes may ambush these reptiles as they bask in the sun or lay eggs, providing an opportunity for opportunistic predation.

Small Marsupials


Small marsupials such as shrew opossums and mouse opossums are potential prey for rattlesnakes, especially in forested habitats where these mammals occur. Rattlesnakes may encounter these marsupials while foraging on the forest floor. 


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