The term scavenger is used to refer to something related to carrion: something that is corrupted or rotten or that is mean. The adjective is often used to describe the animal whose diet is based on the intake of meat from the carcasses of other animals that it did not hunt.
The scavengers, also called carrion, eat corpses. Unlike predators, they do not hunt or kill animals, but feed on their bodies. Their role in the food chain is very important since they contribute to the elimination of organic remains.
These inert bodies, which, if they were not consumed by scavengers, would pollute the environment and generate an ecological imbalance, are converted into new nutrients that return to the soil. We can say that it is a form of recycling that, like practically everything we think we have invented, nature designed long before us.
The vultures, the raccoons and green flies are some of the scavengers. It should be noted, however, that there are predators that, beyond hunting, also adopt a scavenging behavior on certain occasions. That is the case with hyenas, for example.
Crows are other of the best known scavengers, in addition to being highly admired for their cunning. Squirrels and other small mammals that die from car accidents are one of their many food sources, supplemented by chicks and eggs from smaller birds.
In the eastern hemisphere, marabou storks move along with hyenas and vultures in search of reptiles, fish, and other dead animals; in some cases, they even feed on elephant carcasses.
Suppose a lion chases, attacks, and kills a deer. This carnivorous feline will eat meat from its prey and possibly leave leaving some remains. Scavengers such as crows can then come into action, feeding on the deer hunted by the lion.
Scavengers also consume plant material that is in a state of decomposition. The source of the carrion, that is to say, of the food of these species, is not always the same, but their refusal to kill to get it remains constant.
Scavengers know very well which animals they should follow closely to ensure food. In fact, they usually have several potential hunts in sight until the first one is completed and the remains of the prey are available. In the countryside, people take advantage of the habit that these birds have of flying over corpses to find out if any of their animals have died.
In addition to the remains that hunters leave behind their prey, either because they do not want to continue eating or because they are not attractive to them, scavengers also feed on victims of car accidents, which occur very frequently on highways and rural roads, but also in cities.
Natural death is another source of food for them, and this phenomenon occurs not only in elderly individuals but also in offspring that are born prematurely or that die from disease.
The notion of scavenger is also used to describe the person who usually investigates the miseries of others to criticize, generate conflicts or take advantage of it. A journalist who places a hidden camera to record how a famous actor with addiction problems buys drugs, and then broadcasts said recording on his television show, may be referred to as a scavenger.