What Do Owls Eat?

What do owls eat?
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What Do Owls Eat? Owls are examples of birds described as raptors, and this is because of their sharp claws and beaks which are instrumental to them when it comes to hunting.

Owls can be found practically anywhere around the world except for Antarctica. Many owls are meat-eaters.

Owl’s diet includes mice, voles, frogs, snakes, fish, rabbits, weasels, and squirrels. Other owl species are exclusive insect eaters.

What Do Owls Eat?

Type of Owl Binomial Name Diet
Barn Owl Tyto alba Mice, rats, voles, lemmings, and insects.
African Grass-owl Tyto capensis Rodents, birds, large insects, and bats.
Northern Saw-whet Owl Aegolius acadicus Shrews, moles, and mice, other birds, insects, and isopods.
Long-eared Owl Asio otus Small rodents and small birds.
Snowy Owl Bubo scandiacus Hares, Lemmings, and birds such as geese and songbirds.
Great Horned Owl Bubo virginianus Birds of Prey: Skunks, Hares, and Geese.
Burrowing Owl Athene cunicularia Grasshoppers, Beetles, Voles, and Squirrels.
Screech Owl Megascops asio Small insects, medium-sized mammals, birds, and reptiles.
Barred Owl Strix varia Small mammals, reptiles, birds, amphibians, fish, and invertebrates.

Owls Diet by Types

The Owl Research Institutes indicates that about 250 owl species exist. They are classified into two families Strigidae and Tytonidae. Strigidae family is made up of owls considered to be the true/typical owls.

They are notable for their round heads. Members of the Tytonidae family are known for their large heart-shaped heads. The types of owls that will be discussed in this section will be drawn from these two families.

What Do Barn Owls Eat?

Kingdom Order Family Genus Species
Animalia Strigiformes Tytonidae Tyto Tyto alba

What do barn owls eat?

The barn owl has been noted to mainly feed on mice, rats, voles, lemmings, and insects. They also consume a vast range of insects.

  • This owl species is mostly found in wide distribution in open parts of the United States and Canada.
  • It primarily inhabits forest strips, deserts, ranchlands, suburbs, cities, marshes, agricultural lands, and woodlots.

What Do African Grass owls Eat?

Kingdom Order Family Genus Species
Animalia Strigiformes Tytonidae Tyto Tyto capensis

What do African grass owls eat?

African Grass owl prefers feeding on rodents, birds, large insects, and bats.

  • This owl species is found in a vast range of African countries including Botswana, Angola, Kenya, Congo, Malawi, Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, South Africa, and Burundi.
  • Its central habitat regions include Savannah, inland wetlands, shrubland, and grassland.

What Do Northern Saw-whet Owls Eat?

Kingdom Order Family Genus Species
Animalia Strigiformes Strigidae Aegolius Aegolius acadicus

What do Northern Saw Whet owls eat?

Northern saw-whet owl mostly feeds on small mammals such as shrews, moles, and mice. It also supplements its diet with birds, insects, and intertidal invertebrates such as isopods.

  • This owl species is notable for its cat-like face and yellow eyes.
  • It mostly inhabits forests, shrub-steppe, savannah, deciduous woody areas, and coniferous swamps.

What Do Long-eared Owls Eat?

Kingdom Order Family Genus Species
Animalia Strigiformes Strigidae Asio Asio otus

What do long-eared owls eat?

Long-eared owl mostly predates on small rodents. During winter, it feeds on small birds.

  • This owl species has a vast distribution, but it is not well known.
  • It mostly inhabits areas with dense trees, meadows, groves of deciduous trees, and conifers, and streamside groves found in the desert.

What Do Snowy Owls Eat?

Kingdom Order Family Genus Species
Animalia Strigiformes Strigidae Bubo Bubo scandiacus

What do snowy owls eat?

The diet of snowy owls primarily consists of mammals such as hares and lemmings, and birds such as geese and songbirds.

  • Matured snowy owls typically eat 3 – 5 lemmings a day, making their annual consumption of the mammal over 1500!
  • Unlike other birds of prey, snowy owls do not consume carrion – they only eat animals that they kill themselves.
  • According to many studies, owls tend to not migrate from their habitat if they find that there are enough lemmings in the arctic tundra.
  • Snowy owls can kill prey as big as eiders, a type of large sea duck.
  • After noticing their prey, snowy owls fly towards it and clutch the animal with their talons.

What Do Great Horned Owls Eat?

Kingdom Order Family Genus Species
Animalia Strigiformes Strigidae Bubo Bubo virginianus

What do great-horned owls eat?

The great horned owl is a bird of prey. The great horned owl’s diet is primarily made up of medium-sized animals such as skunks, hares, and geese.

  • Unlike many other species of owl, the great horned species does not migrate – it stays within a 10 km² range of its hunting grounds.
  • The great horned owl has the most varied diet out of all raptors located in North America.
  • Although they usually hunt at night (they are nocturnal), the great horned owl sometimes looks for food during daylight hours.
  • Compared to other species of owls, the great horned species are efficient in catching their prey. Thanks to the special feathers on their wings that help them fly silently.
  • The great horned owl has been documented to eat even small cats and dogs!

What Do Burrowing Owls Eat?

Kingdom Order Family Genus Species
Animalia Strigiformes Strigidae Athene Athene cunicularia

What do borrowing owls eat?

The preferred food of the burrowing owl is small insects such as grasshoppers and beetles, although they will settle for small to medium-sized mammals, including voles, squirrels, and more.

  • Burrowing owls usually live in places with a high density of their favorite foods – these locations include grasslands, deserts, and agricultural fields.
  • Female burrowing owls usually hunt during daylight hours while males look for food at dusk.
  • Another difference between the hunting patterns of the two genders involves the type of food they look for – the males kill mammals, and the females hunt insects.
  • As this species of owl is not nocturnal, they hunt at all times of the day and night.
  • When the burrowing owl becomes tired during one of their hunting sessions, they take a break by resting at a dirt mound.

What Do Screech Owls Eat?

Kingdom Order Family Genus Species
Animalia Strigiformes Strigidae Megascops Megascops asio

What do screech owls eat?

The screech owl’s diet ranges from small insects and other invertebrates to medium-sized mammals, birds, and reptiles.

  • If there seems to be an abundance of prey in the area, screech owls usually stash the unneeded food in tree hollows.
  • The screech owl consumes many types of birds, including swallows, finches, doves, and more.
  • As a swift and nimble bird of prey, the screech owl is capable of hunting bats and others of the same species.
  • The male bird of the family usually brings food to the female and chicks.
  • Like most other species of owls, this species regurgitates their food in the form of an oval pellet.

What Do Barred Owls Eat?

Kingdom Order Family Genus Species
Animalia Strigiformes Strigidae Strix Strix varia

What do barred owls eat?

The diet of the barred owl varies immensely; they eat just about every type of animal in the kingdom Animalia, from mammals, reptiles, birds, amphibians, fish, and invertebrates.

  • Barred owls usually eat small to medium-sized mammals, but they will settle for birds and tiny insects if there is no other choice.
  • Although it is difficult to be specific, a few scientists believe that barred owls have a vision that is eight times greater than a human’s.
  • Compared to other owl species, barred owl’s eyes are on the front of the head as opposed to each side of its head. This anatomical structural advantage helps to hunt efficiently than the rest of the owl species.
  • Also, the barred owl has an excellent hearing ability, and it helps to detect the prey quickly, which is hiding in snow during the winter months.
  • Even though the barred owl is nocturnal, this species sometimes feed on their prey during daylight hours too.

How Do Owls Hunt?

Different hunting techniques are used by owls when it comes to finding their prey.

How do owls hunt?

  • One strategy they use is using strategic flights. In this strategy, the owls make quartering flights identify the location of prey. Once a target is identified, the owl flies towards it and proceeds to capture it by surprise.
  • Another technique that some owls use is hunting from perching. In this approach, the owl will perch on a low branch and wait for prey to appear. Once a target unveils itself, the owl flies down to capture it aided by its open wings and sharp talons positioned forward.
  • Other owl species which hunt fish will find them by skimming over water to spot unsuspecting victims and proceed to snatch them.

When Do Owls Eat?

Most owl species are nocturnal.

  • This means that they are active at night and will thus be found foraging for food and eating during nightfall.
  • Few species are diurnal and will thus be active and look for food during daylight hours.

How Often Do Owls Eat?

Owls, with the example of barn owls, eat about 3-4 ounces a day.

How often do owls eat?

  • This eating behavior can be attributed to their high metabolism rate. As such, owls need to eat quite frequently to realize their daily energy requirement.
  • Larger species have slower metabolism compared to their smaller counterparts, which implies they will feed on a reduced amount of food every day.

What Eats Owls?

A limited number of organisms predate on owls given that these birds are on the top of their food chain.

What eats owls? Falcons

  • However, depending on their size, habitat, and species, some predators that consume owl eggs and nestlings include snakes and stoats.
  • Other predators include common buzzards, some owl species, falcons, lanners, kites, and some eagle species.

Where Do Owls Fit in the Animal Food Chain?

Owls are essential to the animal food chain especially when considering their role as prey and predators.

  • They help regulate the local population of the organisms they feed on, thus, preventing overpopulation in their ecosystem.
  • They are also a good source of nutrition for organisms that depend on them as food.

Cite this article as: "What Do Owls Eat?," in Bio Explorer by Jack Kirsten, June 26, 2019, https://www.bioexplorer.net/what-do-owls-eat.html/.

Key References

  • “List of Owl Species | BirdLife”. Accessed September 25, 2019. Link.
  • “Barn Owl Tyto alba Predation on Small Mammals in Relation to the Mediterranean Environment (Pisa Province, Italy)”. Accessed September 25, 2019. Link.
  • “Barn Owl Life History, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology”. Accessed September 25, 2019. Link.
  • “ADW: Tyto capensis: INFORMATION”. Accessed September 25, 2019. Link.
  • “IUCN Red List of Threatened Species”. Accessed September 25, 2019. Link.
  • “Long Eared Owl Facts | Asio Otus – The RSPB”. Accessed September 25, 2019. Link.
  • “Long-eared Owl | Audubon Field Guide”. Accessed September 25, 2019. Link.
  • “About Owls I Owl Research Institute”. Accessed September 25, 2019. Link.
  • “Owls: Facts (Science Trek: Idaho Public Television)”. Accessed September 25, 2019. Link.
  • “Owls | Defenders of Wildlife”. Accessed October 16, 2019. Link.
  • “Hinterland Who’s Who – Great Horned Owl”. Accessed October 16, 2019. Link.
  • “Canadian Wildlife Federation: Great Horned Owl”. Accessed October 16, 2019. Link.
  • “Nature Canada – Borrowing Owl”. Accessed October 16, 2019. Link.
  • “Eastern Screech Owl | Warner Nature Center”. Accessed October 16, 2019. Link.
  • “Barred Owl” – All about birds. Accessed October 16, 2019. Link.

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