Most wild turtles are omnivores and eat a varied diet including sources of protein and vegetation.
Hatchlings and young turtles of most species eat a little more protein than they will eat later in life.
They will generally seek food near the nesting area when they are hatchlings.
As they mature, some species roam or swim and others move toward the areas they will live around as adults.
They scavenge for food where they are, so their diets may vary in these stages.
Many turtles will eat anything that has the texture or scent of food so this can be very dangerous to their health.
Freshwater turtles may eat scraps of human snack foods that are left behind and the amount of sodium or sugar can be poisonous to them.
Sea turtles will eat water-filled plastic bags, believing it to be a jellyfish, which can obstruct their airway or digestive system.
Turtles need a clean environment that is free of toxins and garbage.
There are several types of small wild turtle that usually live around freshwater lakes, ponds, or swamps. Most of them prefer habitats that are warm and have areas of calm water where they can drink, swim, mate and find food. Their diets vary and most eat both vegetation and prey which ranges from fish to small birds.
The Red-Eared Slider is a common freshwater turtle found in streams, lakes, and ponds. They bask in the sun on rocks or logs and stay hidden to rest. The turtles tend to eat underwater plant life, fruits that fall from nearby bushes or trees, little fish, tadpoles and other small prey. They will also eat frog and salamander eggs or even insects if nothing else can be found.
When red-eared sliders are young they have to eat what they can catch, so they tend to eat mainly amphibian eggs and tadpoles that are easily found near shore areas. They will readily eat vegetation if they cannot find other foods, though the young ones are naturally driven to eat protein.
Eastern Box Turtles are also small freshwater turtles that live and hunt around many different bodies of water. They will eat fruit, berries, grasses, mushrooms, flowers, and weeds. Their preferred foods include earthworms, caterpillars, slugs, snails, beetles, grasshoppers and any other insects that come near their natural habitat. They can move quickly if they need to grab a live insect.
The Painted Turtle is another small turtle that moves along the water bottoms hunting for food. It pushes its head quickly in and out of the water to attract the interest of water creatures. These turtles like to eat fish, but will also skim the water for vegetation and small insects and aquatic animals.
There are several different species of Painted Turtles and they each have different habits with food. Some slower types eat mainly fish that are injured or have recently died. The midland Painted Turtle eats more aquatic bugs and some plants. The southern Painted Turtle is quite different from the others. The young turtles eat only small amounts of vegetation and primarily hunt for any protein they can find.
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The adults consume almost entirely vegetation and some easy-to-catch larvae and slow prey. Both juveniles and adults will eat duckweed and algae. They both enjoy dragonfly larvae and crawfish for protein sources. The western Painted Turtle eats a different diet according to the season. In the early summer, they consume insects as more than half of their diets. In the late summer, they eat plants and insects almost equally.
Sea turtles have very different lives from small freshwater turtles. Sea turtles tend to live much longer and many get very large. They spent almost their entire lives only in the sea. The females only leave the sea for a short time to lay eggs. The hatchlings are on the shore for a brief period before they enter the sea and with most sea turtles, the males never leave again.
Different kinds of sea turtles also have varied diets although most are omnivores that consume a great deal of protein. Green Sea Turtles are the only marine turtles that are true herbivores and they dine on grasses near the shorelines where they spent their adult lives.
The other sea turtles will also eat algae, grasses, seaweed and other plant life. Their primary diets consist of fish, crabs, shrimp, varied crustaceans and especially jellyfish.
Hatchling sea turtles often eat what they can find on the shore or near the shallow water after they hatch, so that might be tiny crabs, seaweed, algae and small fish. As they grow and move out to sea, most will consume larger amounts of protein. Most species of adult sea turtle love jellyfish and will seek them out over other kinds of food. They will eat other protein as needed, though, so fish, crustaceans, and even small birds are eaten if they come near the turtle habitat. Many sea turtles live near coastlines as adults, but different species seek different habits. Some prefer coral reefs while others prefer rocky areas. Their diets will vary some depending on where they live as adults.