Owls are adept nocturnal predators with extraordinary nocturnal adaptations and talents. These species are renowned for both their intriguing diets and distinctive features.
What do owls consume, then?
In this article, we’ll look at some of the creatures that owls hunt and what they consume. We’ll also talk about how they pursue their prey.
Although not all of the prey items that these birds eat are included in this list, it should give you a decent notion of the range of them.
Around the world, owls may be found in a variety of environments, including grasslands, deserts, and, most frequently, forested places like forests. Their nests are typically found in trees, but they may also be found in barns, holes in the ground, and even caves.
Owls do not migrate in the winter like other birds do; instead, they remain in one place. The majority of the time, they continue to search for prey throughout the winter. Many owl species have evolved to life in extremely cold climes, including the snowy owl, great horned owl, and great gray owl.
The snowy owl can endure temperatures as low as -60° F and is often found in the regions surrounding the North Pole, as well as occasionally in Canada and the Northern United States. They are designed for these types of conditions with their large foot cushioning and tightly packed feathers.
Extremely hot-climate owls, like the desert owl, keep cool by restricting their activities to the evening hours when it is considerably cooler outside. According to their name, burrowing owls do exactly what you might expect: they hide underground to avoid the heat.
What Do Owls Eat?
An owl’s food is dependent on its species, which changes according to its habitat’s climate and geographic location. They all follow carnivorous diets, however the specific foods they consume depend on their location and the food supplies there.
Although some owls consume carrion, in general, they only consume prey that they kill themselves. They consume fish, small animals, other birds, insects, and other types of food.
Scops and Screech Owls have distinct diets that focus mostly on insects. There are eastern and western species of screech owl. The western screech owl consumes a lot more arthropods than its eastern counterpart, as well as spiders, slugs, snails, amphibians, fish, birds, and rodents.
They feed on crayfish and enormous carpenter ants in Seattle, but prefer to pursue mammals in Arizona.
Mostly mice, voles, and shrews are eaten by barn owls. Larger species will hunt juvenile foxes, hares, and birds as large as ducks or gamebirds, such the Eagle Owl. The Great Horned Owl and other desert-dwelling owls hunt insects and reptiles.
Even little dogs and cats have been reported to be taken by owls when they drop them from great heights. One species that has been seen carrying a cat is the Striped Owl, also known as the Hoot Owl. Small dogs and cats have also been reported to be attacked by the Great Horned Owl.
What Do Owls Eat During The Day?
Although most owls are nocturnal, some are diurnal, or active throughout the day. Even nocturnal owls occasionally hunt during the day, especially when there is a lack of food.
Once more, because they are opportunistic feeders, owls often eat anything they can obtain. Except that midday hunters target animals that are active during the day, their diets are mostly similar to those of nighttime hunters.
They could hunt squirrels, rabbits, ducks, songbirds, and frogs during the day. Larger owls may even hunt tiny deer and abandoned pets.
How do owls find their food?
Owls go in search of prey. With the exception of the northern hawk-owl and the burrowing owl, which are diurnal or active during the day, owls are nocturnal creatures that are active at night.
Those who hunt in a desert environment or similar open area do so by flying and then snatching their prey with their powerful feet and sharp talons, or they may immediately seize their prey with their beaks, as is the case with insects.
When they catch a tiny animal, they bring it off to a tree and start tearing its flesh apart and piercing it with their hooked, sharp beaks, which have a crushingly lethal force. Otherwise, owls pursue insects and small animals on the ground or catch them in flight after leaving their perch.
Do Owls Eat Fish?
Despite not making up a significant component of their diet, owls do consume fish. A few number of owls, such the Ketupa and the Scotopelia, do prey primarily on fish.
Since fish are the only species that owls hunt underwater, they make interesting prey.
How do owls digest their food?
In contrast to other birds, owls cannot chew their food. When they seek for food, the prey is either swallowed whole or torn into bite-sized pieces.
Despite being able to swallow bones, teeth, hair, and feathers, they cannot digest them. They regurgitate pellets from their jaws that include these indigestible items. Some owl species only pull their prey’s feathers in part.
What Do Owls Eat At Night?
The majority of owls hunt mostly at night and consume a range of animals. Even though certain species have a tendency to have a more restricted diet—the African fishing owl, for example, loves fish and amphibians—these animals will nevertheless eat a wider variety of foods if their preferred sources of food are not available.
Nocturnal owls typically consume other nocturnal species including moths, crickets, scorpions, mice, voles, lizards, bats, and raccoons since they hunt at night. But once more, it depends on the species and the options.
Owls need to feed regularly, whether they do it at night or during the day, thus they usually grab what they can get.
Owls’ Diet Based on Species
More than 200 different owl species have been identified. Each species has a unique diet that changes depending on size, habitat, geography, and the sort of food that is available.
Owls may be found all over the world in a variety of environments, including tundra, grasslands, tropical forests, and deserts. The kind of prey they pursue is also dispersed since many of these areas are.
Let’s examine some of the owl species and their prey in more detail.
Due to its vast distribution, tawny owls are our largest common owl and the most well-known in Britain. Tawny owls are entirely nocturnal, so you have to be really lucky to see one. They like wooded woodlands and make their nests in ancient structures and tree holes.
The distinctive “twit twoo” sound given by the male and female tawny owls is what makes them well-known. Males respond to females’ sharp “ke-wick” noises with a long “hoo-hoo.”
When in a woods, they frequently eat shrews, wood mice, and bank voles. They hunt in farms as well, collecting field voles, small birds, and occasionally insects like big beetles. They typically ambush their prey while hunting from a perch.
What Do Barn Owls Eat?
It is well known that barn owls consume prey. Although voles are the primary diet of barn owls, they will also consume other rodents, small birds, and insects. They consume rodents in between 90 and 95 percent of their diet.
Although it is less frequent, certain barn owls may also consume reptiles and amphibians. Barn owls will also consume rodents and mice that humans provide.
Long-eared owls build stick nests in trees and inhabit woodlands, often thick conifer plantations.
Although these owls’ long ear tufts serve as an identifying characteristic, they are basically only feathers that assist an owl appear larger when it is disturbed. They resemble a wood pigeon in size and are tall and lean.
The majority of long-eared owls rear their young in abandoned nests of other birds and animals.
Field voles make up the majority of their food, along with wood mice, bank mice, and other voles, albeit they are consumed to a lesser extent. They occasionally have a reputation for eating birds.
By quartering, or flying low over the ground in search of prey, they pursue their prey. Owls that reside in open areas, such as grasslands and scrub near to woodlands, frequently employ this technique.
What Do Screech Owls Eat?
The owl species known as screech owls may be found in North and South America, Europe, Asia, and Africa. The shrieking sound they produce as they talk to each other at night gives them their name.
These nocturnal birds mostly consume insects like beetles, moths, and crickets. If it is simple to catch, they may also devour other available prey.
Little owls, which are found in forest and mixed farms, were brought to the UK in the 19th century.
Due to their tiny size, they can easily fit into narrow areas and create their hollow nests in ancient structures, stone walls, and dead trees.
Little owls, as its name implies, are the smallest owls in the UK, and they prefer smaller prey than other owls do.
They catch their prey by either chasing it on the ground or swooping down from wherever they are perched thanks to their excellent eyesight, which is extremely efficient both during the day and at night.
Their food frequently includes small animals and invertebrates like earthworms and beetles. They have also been known to take tiny birds during the mating season.
What Do Great Horned Owls Eat?
Being a huge species of owl, the Great Horned owl can also take on enormous prey. They eat giant raptors like ospreys and medium-sized animals like foxes. These owls consume smaller species, including insects, rodents, and reptiles, in addition to larger prey.
They do prefer larger prey since it makes for a more filling meal, but they will kill whatever they can find. Due to their opportunistic hunting style, they will consume any accessible prey.
Rats, tiny squirrels, and mice are often included in this, however the season may affect the specific composition of their diet.
In highland moorland, grassland, and occasionally the border of new forest, short-eared owls build their nests on the ground. They use vegetation to build their nests in the grass, reeds, or heather.
During the winter, a large number of short-eared owls travel to the UK from regions including Scandinavia, Russia, and Iceland.
They are active during the day and are frequently spotted hunting for prey by flying low over marsh and moorland.
Once more, tiny mammals are their main food, with the British field vole accounting for as much as 80% of their diet. Additionally taken are other little animals and birds.
This animal and its prey have a tight relationship. The number of short-eared owls rises when there are lots of voles. However, during years with little prey available, the population declines.
What Do Barred Owls Eat?
Barred Owls are nocturnal species that are most active, feeding on rodents including mice, voles, squirrels, and other similar creatures. They do consume insects and other small animals like rabbits.
They are opportunistic, just like all other owls, and won’t turn down a food if it is readily available.
What Do Owls Eat During The Winter?
For many owls, winter may be a difficult season. Songbirds may have left the region, insects are either dead or hibernating, and their regular food species may be tougher to obtain during the winter due to hibernation.
Of course, owls living in chilly arctic areas, like the snowy owl, constantly contend with similar circumstances. Other owls, like the gray owl, have strategies for coping with them.
The gray owl, for instance, uses its face like a satellite dish to the snow, funneling any noises from below the surface to its incredibly acute ears, allowing it to locate prey that is hidden under the snow. It can find prey that is hidden or hibernating in this fashion.
On warmer days when ponds and streams are not iced over, several other eagle species consume fish. They will also naturally consume a variety of creatures that emerge from concealment.
Once more, owls steal what they can. A hard winter with food shortages can be a major hazard for owls since they can only survive without food for a short period of time and cannot store enough food to last longer than a few days.
They will occasionally consume snow to satisfy their most fundamental demand for water, especially during times of food scarcity.
Owls and Conservation Efforts
Due to their predatory nature, owls are essential in controlling pest proliferation, especially rodents that are prone to devour crops and other food. But because of human activity, habitat loss, invasive species, and climate change, many owl species are in danger.
Organizations like Defenders of Wildlife petition local and state governments, fight climate change, and develop forested areas to safeguard owl habitats across the United States.
Because they are carnivorous, owls like to consume a wide range of creatures, including fish, other birds, amphibians like frogs and toads, insects like moths and beetles, rodents like voles, shrews, rats, and mice, rabbits, and even amphibians like frogs and toads (osprey, hawks, and falcons).
Check out our previous posts where we go into great length on these interesting species’ diets if you’re curious to learn more about them. Gratitude for reading!