Have you ever wondered what your chameleon would be eating if he were in the wild instead of in your home?
Are you curious if there is a difference between what chameleons in the wild and those in captivity eat?
If these are questions you have considered, you might wonder:
What do chameleons eat in the wild?
In their natural habitat, chameleons survive on a diet of insects, including grasshoppers, crickets, and locusts, but larger chameleons might consume small birds or even other lizards. There are also a few species of chameleons known to eat some plant materials to supplement their diet.
Keep reading this article for everything you need to know about what chameleons in the wild will eat.
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What Do Chameleons Eat In The Wild?
Owning a pet chameleon is a fun experience, but you sometimes might wonder what your pet would be doing or eating if he were a wild animal.
Chameleons are classified as insectivores, which means they are primarily eating insects.
In the wild, these animals can consume a wide variety of insects, making it difficult to give a full list of the actual insects they will eat.
Wild chameleons will all generally be eating the same type of prey, no matter where they live or species.
This prey will primarily be insects, which can vary based on location, but often include, flies, worms, crickets, snails, slugs, grasshoppers, and even locusts.
Eating a wide variety of insects helps to create a rounded diet giving the animal the proper nutrition they need to survive.
There are many more types of insects chameleons will eat depending on what they can catch and what is available where they are located.
Larger chameleons will also eat different types of small lizards, small birds, and even tree-climbing rodents if they can catch them.
There are other chameleons, like veiled chameleons, known to include plant material into their diet.
In the wild, those chameleons might supplement their diet of insects, with tender leaves on trees or plant shoots.
They have also been known to eat berries.
When it comes to veiled chameleons, eating plants or even flowers gives them the chance to absorb water, which is scarce in their desert habitat.
How Do Chameleons Catch Their Food?
Have you ever watched your chameleon moving around in its enclosure?
You probably have noticed, they don’t move very fast.
So how can chameleons possibly catch all those flying insects, lizards or rodents, especially if the prey can move so much more quickly?
To start, chameleons have exceptionally sharp eyes, which can detect and regulate light, focus rapidly, and enlarge what they see.
Chameleons’ eyelids do not move separately, but rather are joined together, so the pupil sees through a pinhole opening.
Think of their eyes kind of like a telephoto lens on a camera.
Also, their eyes move independently of each other in their sockets, giving them a 360-degree view of the world around them.
They can keep one eye looking in one direction, as their other eye tracks a flying insect, waiting for the opportune moment to strike.
Chameleons can see their prey as far as five or 10 meters away because their eyesight is so good.
Not only can chameleons see visible light, as we do as humans, but they also can see ultraviolet light.
All these amazing characteristics give them the most distinctive eyes of any reptile, and it means they have an advantage when their prey comes within reach.
Fast Moving, Long, Sticky Tongue
Moving beyond their eyes, instead of chasing after their food or pouncing, like you see other predators do, chameleons will use their long tongue to catch their food.
The chameleon itself might not be very fast, but they can stick out their tongue very quickly to catch whatever prey comes close enough.
They can shoot out their tongue more than twice the length of their body, capturing their prey in as short a time as 0.07 seconds.
Other lizards might use their tongue to capture their food, but chameleons have the longest reach.
Not only is their tongue fast, but at the very end, it has a sticky tip to trap the insects, lizards or rodents they otherwise wouldn’t be able to capture and eat.
This part of the tongue isn’t like a piece of tape sticking to the soon to be food, but rather think of the tip as a kind of suction cup attaching to the prey.
The suction cup is made up of a ball of muscles on the tip of the tongue.
Once the chameleon has the prey on its tongue, they reel it back in and use their strong jaws to crush.
When they are not using their tongue to catch food, it sits at the back of their mouth, bunched up until they need to use it again.
Camouflage is the third characteristic of these reptiles, which gives them an advantage over their prey.
Chameleons’ natural coloring helps them to blend in with their surroundings.
These animals will spend most of their lives in trees or bushes, which serves as protection from predators.
It also allows them to wait patiently for food to come.
The green and brown coloring common for chameleons allows them to blend in with the leaves and branches of the tree or bush.
Blending in and staying still, they can wait for their prey to come along, and once it does, their eyes and long, sticky tongue do the rest of the work.
How Much Does A Chameleon Eat Each Day?
In the wild, a chameleon is never certain if or when its next meal is going to fly or crawl by, so they will eat at every opportunity they can get.
They fill up on prey when they can, just in case the next decent meal doesn’t come along for a few days.
If you have a chameleon in your home, they will eat at every opportunity they can, just like in the wild.
Chameleons have not been kept as pets for very long, so they aren’t domesticated in the way other pets like dogs and cats in your home are.
Because they aren’t domesticated, the millions of years of hard-wired evolution affect how they act, even when it comes to how much and how often they eat.
Wild vs. Captive Foods
After having discussed what a chameleon eats in the wild, you might wonder how those it differs from what the animals kept as pets eat.
It is pretty similar to what wild chameleons consume each day.
Chameleons in captivity will eat a large number of insects, but instead of varying by what flies by, the selection will vary only by what you decide to feed them.
Many insects you feed your chameleon will be readily available in local pet stores, but some will have to be ordered online from companies specializing in feeder insects.
There are over 30 different kinds of feeders available for you to choose from to provide for your pet.
Veiled chameleons will also eat leafy greens, including collard greens, kale, and romaine lettuce along with veggies like snap peas, squash or cucumbers.
Your chameleon might even be partial to different fruits.
Chameleons are picky eaters when it comes to fruits, vegetables, and greens.
Do not be surprised if there is a bit of a learning curve when it comes to figuring out which fruits, veggies, or green your chameleon prefers and be sure the pieces you offer are bite-size.
Overall, chameleons number once choice when it comes to prey, are insects.
Depending on the size of your chameleon, try feeding them the occasional pinky for variety and as a protein boost.
Pinkies are baby mice, with soft bones, fed to pets like snakes or lizards.
Do not feed your chameleon anything larger than a pinky.
Chameleons enjoy a varied diet, meaning you have to be committed to keeping a constant supply of fresh insects handy to keep your chameleon happy and healthy.
Supplementing Your Chameleon’s Diet
In captivity, chameleons will not naturally get all the essential vitamins and nutrients they need, including calcium.
This means, as an owner, you will have to supplement their diet throughout the week.
Do so by dusting their food with a calcium supplement.
If their environmental needs are being met, supplementing their food is not as critical.
These environmental needs include proper temperature gradient, quality UV lighting, and proper hydration.
Understanding what chameleons eat in the wild, can give you insight into what your chameleon might eat in captivity.
Chameleons in the wild eat similarly to those in captivity, consuming insects, but if they can they also they will eat small birds and other lizards, as well as rodents.
By reading this article, you hopefully now have a better idea of the types of foods chameleons eat in the wild as part of their regular diet.