What Eats Tree Leaves? 6 Leaf Eating Animals!

Last updated on October 18th, 2022

What animals eat tree leaves? This is the question on everyone’s mind.

If you have herbivorous or omnivorous pets at home, you may have already seen how your leafy vegetables and fruits have certain missing parts if kept open for a long time.

For instance, you may see how your cucumbers and cabbages have their portions chewed down within some time of bringing them home. 

However, at times, it may be the work of rodents, worms, and other insects, and all you want is to prevent them from ruining your fruits and vegetables. Or you may worry about the trees and plants in your garden or backyard, which are repeatedly getting attacked by several herbivores.

These animals eat leaves from trees:

  • Giraffes
  • Pigeons
  • Sloths
  • Koalas
  • Quokkas
  • Okapis
  • Squirrels
  • Deer
  • Kangaroos
  • Voles
  • Guinea Pigs

In this article, we’ll discuss the signs of various insects feeding on your leafy food items. But before we begin the discussion, let’s quickly sum up the definition of herbivores and their different types.

What Are Herbivores?

We’ve read about the differences between herbivores, carnivores, and omnivores. Talking about herbivores, These are animals or other living beings that eat various plant species.

Some common examples of mammals feeding on plants and their various parts are elephants, camels, cows, deer, monkeys, antelopes, beavers, giraffes, gorillas, goats, horses, squirrels, pandas, zebras, and so on.

Herbivorous mammals mainly feed on leaves, grasses, and stems.

And the list of herbivorous birds includes geese, orioles, cockatoos, emus, parrots, ostriches, hummingbirds, swans, etc.

Coming to reptiles and amphibians feeding on plants, we have tortoises, green iguanas, and chuckwallas. The list of herbivorous invertebrates includes ants, caterpillars, grasshoppers, moths, honey bees, butterflies, crickets, snails, worms, and so on.

However, if we look closely at the food web, we can further categorize herbivores into six main types, including –

  1. Granivores – they eat mostly grains and seeds.
  2. Frugivores – they mainly feed on fruits.
  3. Folivores – they prefer eating mostly leaves.
  4. Xylophages – these animals typically eat wood.
  5. Nectivores – they mostly eat nectar.
  6. Detritivores – these species primarily feed on dead organic or plant material.

Today, we’ll specifically discuss folivores who feed on plant leaves. Here’s a list of animals that include tree leaves in their diet.

List of Animals That Eat Tree Leaves

1. Giraffes

giraffe reaching for leaves on tree branch

According to Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, giraffes once had short necks. Gradually, their necks started to evolve into longer ones since they needed to reach the higher tree branches.

As a result of this evolutionary progression, the giraffe’s neck is now long enough to reach the leaves on the highest tree branches.

Giraffes may consume up to as much as 75 pounds of food each day. These mammals can spend most of their day feeding on different types of tree leaves.

And there’s a good reason behind this habit. Giraffes actually get a minimal amount of leaves in every bite.

Giraffes enjoy eating leaves from Acacia trees because they can easily reach them and it’s part of their dietary choice since this tree grows in abundance in the African savannah ecosystem.

While these thorny trees aren’t suitable for other animals to eat, giraffes can consume them without any difficulty.

Giraffes can grab these thorny leaves with ease thanks to their 18-inch tongue and prehensile lips that can easily reach around the thorns. 

Moreover, experts believe that the dark color of a giraffe’s tongue is made to protect them from harmful UV rays.

It further protects these long-necked mammals from getting a sunburn on their tongues while reaching out for the high tree branches.

Besides, a giraffe’s stomach has four compartments that are specially adapted to digest the leaves it consumes.

After a giraffe swallows the leaves, a ball of leaves is formed, which is sent back to the throat for further chewing and fine grinding.

This is why giraffes may seem to be eating all the time, but it is really the extra chewing they need to do for proper digestion.

You’ll also be surprised to know that giraffes have sticky and thick saliva that can form a thick coat on any thorn present in the leaves they may swallow.

Did you know that giraffes can go without water for a long time? It’s because acacia leaves have a lot of water content in them.

When giraffes feel thirsty, they’ll need to bend down their long necks way too low to drink water from a lake or river.

This bent-down position actually makes giraffes vulnerable to predator attacks. This is why these watery acacia leaves do the job of quenching their thirst.

2. Insects and Slugs

black and yellow caterpillar on a green leaf

Sometimes, insects and worms can damage our plants and trees. But it’s easy to identify what kind of animal may have committed this act.

If you find large chunks of leaves disappearing or holes in them, then it may be the work of caterpillars, beetles, crickets, slugs, earwigs, etc.

This kind of damage usually happens over time, with small portions of leaves disappearing or getting damaged every night.

If you find small pellet-like fecal droppings on your plant leaves, then caterpillars may be the culprit.

Cutworm caterpillars feed on both the leaves and the stems, usually during the night.

The damage caused by caterpillars ranges from removing large portions of the leaves to creating small holes in them.

To prevent caterpillars from harming your plants, you can try to look for them during the day. If you find any near your leaves, remove them.

Slugs, on the other hand, generally leave a coating of slime whenever they feed on leaves. This slime dries up later and appears shiny.

Beetles often escape our notice as they fall off on the ground whenever they sense any movement. So, check under your leaves to see if there’s any beetle hiding.

Earwigs may damage soft fruit plants, corn silk, and seedling vegetables.

The European earwig may even eat away small portions of the leaves, which is why we often see tiny holes made in them.

While this is specifically seen in young leaves, older leaves may be eaten from around the edges. You can easily identify when earwigs eat away your leaves because they leave a ragged look to the entire leaf.

To control their activities, you can search for various pests in the evening or maybe at night using a flashlight. You may find most of the insects at night as they feed on leaves when it’s dark.

3. Rabbits

rabbit stretching for leaf on tree

The favorite plants of rabbits include beets, beans, broccoli, peas, tree leaves, lettuce, and of course, carrots, the vegetable we associate rabbits with!

Rabbits can feed on foliage either in the early morning, at dusk, or at night and the damages caused by rabbits can be easily identified.

These creatures will generally rip off the foliage sharply with no irregular or ragged edges left behind.

You may also find rabbits leaving pea-sized droppings near the foliage.

Rabbits also have the habit of grazing off new foliage growth, almost cleaning them uniformly.

Besides, these creatures don’t generally travel very far from their resting places, such as the burrows.

4. Deer

deer reaching for leaves on tree branch

Deer generally eat leafy plants and grasses during the springtime and in early summer. However, during the winter, they rely on dried leaves, mushrooms, grasses, sedges, twigs, tree bark, woody plants, and even dead leaves due to the scarcity of vegetation.

Deer are often considered browsers who feed mainly on leaves, stems, shoots, shrubs, and trees.

Many people confuse deer damage with that of rabbits. But a major difference is that you can easily identify deer tracks as these will be clearly evident on the ground.

Also, deer have the habit of chewing off large chunks of plants. 

5. Squirrels and Chipmunks

squirrel hiding while eating leaf

These cute medium-sized rodents eat leaves, no doubt, but they rather have a fascination for tree bark, nuts, and their favorite fruits, including strawberries and tomatoes.

You can catch these rodents almost red-handed in these notorious activities during early morning and sometimes, even in broad daylight or at dusk.

We’ve all seen squirrels and chipmunks nibbling happily on birdseed, seedlings, berries, fruits, flowers, tree buds, twigs, tree bark, and leaves.

Just like other rodent species, squirrels, too, have long incisors that can grow throughout their life.

These specialized teeth enable squirrels and chipmunks to gobble up all kinds of plant materials.

6. Voles

vole looking at tree leaf

Voles are another kind of rodent that are infamous for damaging garden seedlings by chewing and gobbling up stems and leaves.

Voles generally damage the seedlings by moving down an entire row of them.

Interestingly, these rodents will eat only the toppling plants and the stems. Some of them may even restrict their menu to just the leaves.

One good way to identify vole damage is to check whether your entire row of seedlings has been damaged. Also, these creatures only attack your plants at night.

Look out for small tunnels or burrows created by voles, especially around the edges of your yard, garden, or grassy areas.

As long as there are 1-2 of them, things can still be under control. But the moment you spot several voles, you need to take serious action in protecting your beloved plants.

Aside from eating tree leaves, here we have a list of animals that eat tree bark.

What animals eat tree leaves?

Giraffes, pigeons, sloths, koalas, quokkas, okapis, squirrels, deer, kangaroos, voles, and guinea pigs are the most common animals that eat tree leaves. However, guinea pigs are more commonly seen eating leaves from different types of fruit trees.

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