What Do Barn Owls Eat – Barn Owls Diet

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Among all the owls, Barn Owl is widely found around the globe. There are around 28 subspecies of Barn Owl. It makes its nest in tree cavities, in high cliffs, and caves. Barn Owl is a bird of prey and hunts other birds and animals to feed itself. We have gathered complete information on “What Do Barn Owls Eat” and listed down all the birds and animals that form part of the Barn Owls Diet. Furthermore, you will also get to know the amount of food it eats and what to feed it in captivity.

What Do Barn Owls Eat

  • The simple answer to this question is that Barn Owls eat meat.
  • To get meat it hunts other birds and small animals.
  • The major portion of barn owls’ diet consists of small mammals especially rodents like mice, rats, voles, shrews, and lemmings.

what barn owls eat - barn owl diet

1. What Do Barn Owls Eat in the Wild

  • In the wild, the Barn Owls eat:
    • Rodents – more than 75% of the Barn Owls hunt consists of rodents (mice, rats, voles, etc)
    • Leporids (rabbits and hares).
    • Shrews
    • Birds
    • Bats
    • Insects
    • Reptiles
    • Amphibians
  • The birds, insects, amphibians, and reptiles form a very small percentage of the total Barn Owl Diet.
  • Barn owls do not like to eat birds but sometimes they do hunt meadowlarks and starlings.

2. What Animals Do Barn Owls Eat

  • Barn Owls mostly hunt small animals and most of them are rodents. The list of animals that Barn Owls eat are:
    • Pygmy mice
    • Jumping mice
    • Deer mice
    • House mice
    • Grasshopper mice
    • Pocket mice
    • Eurasian harvest mice
    • Kangaroo rats
    • Moles
    • Flying squirrels
    • Bog lemmings
  • Barns Owls eat the young ones of the following animals:
    • Muskrats
    • Woodrats
    • House rats
    • Rice rats
    • Pocket gophers
    • Brown or Norway rats
    • Rabbits
    • Hares
  • Sometimes barn owls also hunt:
    • Chipmunks
    • Ground Squirrels

3. What Birds Do Barn Owls Eat

  • Birds are not the favorite food of Barn Owls but they do sometimes hunt the following birds:
    • Red-winged Blackbird
    • Yellow-headed Blackbird
    • Marsh wrens
    • Meadowlarks
    • European Starling
    • House Sparrow
    • Starling
    • Black Birds
    • Thrush
    • Finch
    • Skylark
    • Feral Pigeon
    • Pied Wagtail
    • Wren
    • Chaffinch
    • Swallow
    • Song Thrush
    • Red Wing
    • Meadow PiPit
    • Pied Wagtail
    • Tree Sparrow
    • Lapwing

4. Barn Owls Diet in Different Regions of the World

South American Barn Owl

  • The South American barn owls hunt the following animals in Chile:
    • Oryzomys – a semiaquatic rodent
    • Common Degu or Octodon – a rodent endemic to the Chilean matorral ecoregion
    • Mus – Mouse
    • Marmosa – a small marsupial without a pouch
    • Phyllotis – Andean Lead Eared Mouse
    • Rattus – ship rat, roof rat, or house rat
    • Akodon – a South American grass mice
    • Abrocoma – a rodent found in the Andes of South America
  • The South American barn owls hunt the following animals in Argentina:
    • Scapteromys – a South American rodent
    • Ctenomys – neotropical rodent
    • Holochilus – semi-aquatic rodents or marsh rats
    • Eumops – a type of bat
    • Rattus – ship rat, roof rat, or house rat
    • Mus – Mouse
    • Oligoryzomys – pygmy rice rats or colilargos
    • Reithrodon – bunny rat or hairy-soled cony rat
    • Akodon – south American grass mice
    • Calomys – Vesper mouse

European Barn Owl

  • In Europe, barn owls hunt :
    • voles
    • shrews
    • house mice
    • wood mice
    • sometimes they may eat small birds and frogs

African Barn Owl

  • In Africa, the Barn Owl hunts:
    • Mus – Mouse
    • Gerbillus – common gerbils
    • Otomys – African vlei rats or groove-toothed rats
    • Rattus – ship rat, roof rat, or house rat
    • Desmodillus -The Cape short-eared gerbil
    • Praomys – a rodent endemic to Africa

Malaysian Barn Owl

  • In Malaysia, Barn Owls mainly hunt Rattus.

Australian Barn Owl

  • In Australia, Barn Owls hunt:
    • Notomys
    • Mus – Mouse
    • Rattus – ship rat, roof rat, or house rat

5. What Do Baby Barn Owls Eat

  • The simple answer to this question is that in the wild the baby barn owls eat whatever their parents feed them.
  • The parents catch small rodents for the baby barn owl to eat.
  • In the nest, a single offspring is fed at a time by the parents. The chicks take turns based on their hunger level.
  • So the baby barn owls eat the smaller rodents of the barn owls’ diet.

6.  What do Barn Owls Eat in Captivity

  • In captivity, Barn Owls eat:
    • Voles, shrews, or mice.
    • Small birds
    • dead day-old chicks
    • blast frozen chicks
    • frozen domestic rats
    • vitamins and mineral supplements

7. How Much Do Barn Owls Eat

  • In one night an adult Barn Owl may eat 2 dead day-old chicks which are equal to the nutrition of 3 voles.

How Many Animals Does a Barn Owl Eat Each Night

  • A Barn Owl eats 6 voles or 6 vole-sized rodents each night.
  • The amount of food they eat each night is equal to 1/3 of their total body weight.

8. What to Feed a Barn Owl

  • Barn owls swallow their prey as a whole instead of tearing it into pieces. So it is better to feed them small animals instead of small pieces of large animals.
  • Voles, mice, shrews, nestling rabbits, moles, and small birds can all be fed to the owls provided that no rat or mouse poisons have been used in your locality.
  • Dead day-old cockerels are one of the best and easily available food items for the captive barn owls.
  • Avoid wild rats as most of them carry diseases that can be transmitted to humans.
  • Frozen domestic rats and mice purchased from your local pet store is excellent food item for barn owls.
  • Avoid feeding the following:
    • Pigeons, as they carry diseases.
    • Rabbits
    • Insects
    • Anything that has been shot with a gun may cause lead poisoning.

9. Do Barn Owls Eat Cats

  • No, Barn Owls do not eat cats but an ambitious Barn Owl may attack kittens.
  • The Barn Owls can’t attack an adult cat and lift it.

10. Do Barn Owls Eat Bats

  • Yes, Barn Owls do eat bats but rarely.
  • According to “The Mammal Society’s National Owl Pellet Survey”, in the UK only in rare isolated cases did Barn Owl hunt bats.

11. Do Barn Owls Eat Snakes

  • No Barn Owls do not eat Snakes.

12. Do Barn Owls Eat Chickens

  • Barn Owls do not go after adult chickens as they are large for them.
  • They might grab a chick or small chicken but it happens rarely.
  • Barn owls are not considered a threat to chickens.
  • However, in captivity, they do eat dead day-old chicks.

13. How Do Barn Owls Eat

  • Barn Owls swallow their prey as a whole instead of tearing it into pieces.
  • They are unable to digest the fur and bones so they throw them out through their mouth in the form of pellets.


Murad Ali Khan is a researcher, writer & editor, who believes in generating quality content. He leads an awesome team of high school students, teachers & IT graduates who helps him in creating & maintaining educational Websites & Apps.
When not tinkering on the web, Murad enjoys going on hikes, read Latest Science News, plays tennis & hangs out with his friends.

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