What Do Owls Eat – Owls Diet

Owls are very common birds that are found all over the world. Owls are birds of prey which means that they hunt and kill other animals to eat. Owls mostly hunt small animals especially rodents and very few of its species hunt birds and fish also. There are about 216 species of owl and their diet varies according to their size and habitat. Owls are nocturnal which means that they sleep during the day and are active during the night. So they mostly hunt at night only. We have gathered complete information about What do Owls Eat and listed down all the animals that form part of the Owls Diet and how it varies among its different species.

What Do Owls Eat

  • Owls eat meat and to get meat they hunt and kill other animals. So the simple answer to the question what do owls eat is “Meat”.
  • Owls diet is very diverse as they have the ability to adapt themselves to whatever food available in their local habitat. So in order to determine the owls diet we need to consider its size and habitat.
  • Small Owls

    • Small owls mostly eat insects and other invertebrates. For example the Eastern Screech owls eat beetles and crayfish along with mice, voles, shrews and birds while the smallest owl, Elf Owl, eat beetles, moths, centipedes, crickets and scorpions. Some of the small owls are also known to hunt and kill birds of their own size.
  • Big Owls

    • Big owls diet varies a lot. As owls are opportunistic in nature, so they will eat whatever food they can find. For example:
      • The Great horned owls eat racoons, squirrels, cats, falcons, small dogs and even other owls.
      • The barn owls whose main prey are rodents but they also hunt bats, rabbits, shrews and other birds.
      • Eagle owls hunt golden eagles and small deer weighing up to 28 pounds.
      • Asian fish owls and African fishing owls hunt fish,amphibians and other aquatic invertebrates.

what do owls eat

What Do Owls Eat In The Wild

  • In the wild, Owls commonly eat:
    • Rodents
    • Leporids (rabbits and hares).
    • Shrews
    • Voles
    • Birds
    • Bats
    • Insects
    • Reptiles
    • Amphibians
    • Fish
  • Most of the owl species hunt small mammals (animals with fur) such as:
    • Mice
    • Rats
    • Squirrels
    • Rabbits
    • Skunks
  • Depending on their size and habitat owls also eat:
    • Insects
    • Worms
    • Spiders
    • Frogs
    • Lizards
    • Birds
    • Cats
    • Dogs
    • Deer
    • Other Owls

  • Owls are also capable of hunting animals that are of their size and even larger.
  • Owls swallow their prey as a whole. Its stomach digests the digestible parts of its prey and  coughs out the undigested part (teeth, claws, fur etc) of its prey in the form of small balls which are known as pellets. The pellets are stored in a separate part of owls stomach called gizzard.
  • It is due to these pellets that helps in determining the owls diet.
  • Owls use their feet to hit and catch the prey. If the prey is still alive then it kills it by breaking its neck with a quick bite. After that it flies to branch of tree along with its prey to eat it.
  • Owls store their surplus food in tree forks, holes or in their nest for later consumption.
  • Owls are opportunistic and they adjust their diet according to the availability of food.

What Do Owls Drink

  • Owls do not usually drink water from pools like other birds, instead they fulfill their water needs from the bodies of their prey.
  • With every prey they eat, they get a gram of water for every gram of fat.
  • However, sometimes they do drink a little when they are having bath in pools and ponds.

What Do Owls Eat In Captivity

  • In captivity the owls diet varies according to the size and species. Every owl is fed with the close alternatives of its diet in the wild.
  • In captivity owls do not need to kill their prey as they are provided with the  animals which are already killed. The most common diet among the many species that are kept in captivity mainly includes the following:
    • Rats
    • Mice
    • Chicks
  • For those who keep owls as pets, it is very important to maintain a varied diet for the owl.
  • Owls mostly swallow their prey as a whole so it is better to feed them with small whole food items instead of small pieces of meats of larger animals. I
  • Captive owls feeders avoid worms, insects and slugs and sometime feed them a small bird or frog.
  • Wild rats are mostly avoided by feeders as they carry diseases.
  • Along with the dead day chicks, mice and rats, captive owls are also fed with vitamins and mineral supplements.

What Do Baby Owls Eat

  • Simple answer to this question is that baby owls eat whatever their parents feed them.
  • Parent owls hunt their normal diet for their babies and then tear it into small pieces so that the baby owl can swallow it easily.
  • The baby owls have the same diet as that of the adult owls of their species. So if you want to know what the baby owls eat, you first need to identify its species and then look for the prey list of that specie.

What Do Pet Owls Eat – Owl Diet Food List

  • Keeping owls as pet is not an easy job as they require a varied diet.
  • Owls like to eat their food as a whole and not in pieces. Every potential owner must make himself well aware about the prey based diet of the owl specie he intends to keep and how he will ensure the availability of those item.
  • The most common owl diet food list is:
    • Pre-killed Mice & Rats
    • Dead Chicks
    • Vitamins & minerals supplements.

Owls diet

What Do Owls Eat At Night

  • Owls are nocturnal birds i.e. they are active at night. They hunt and feed themselves mostly at night.
  • Owls hunt and eat their usual prey at night. Their diet does not depend upon whether it is day or night.

What Birds Do Owls Eat – Do Owls Eat Birds

  • Birds do not form part of the normal diet of the owls.
  • Large owls such as eagle owls eat game birds and other birds as big as ducks.
  • Barn owls are known to hunt:
    • 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
  • Snowy Owls are known to hunt:
    • geese
    • small songbirds
  • Eastern screech owls are known to hunt cuckoos, finches, woodpeckers, creepers, mockingbirds and other small birds.
  • The Spectacled owls hunt motmots and jays.
  • Great gray owls due to their large size a capable of hunting broad winged hawks and Canadian grouse.
  • Northern saw whet owls are known to hunt pine siskin, flycatcher and golden-crowned kinglet.
  • African grass owls eat black crake, african snipe and black crake.
  • The Northern pygmy-owls due to their small size go for humming birds, warblers, wrens, creepers, stralings, finches and swallows.
  • Short eared owls hunt birds like passerines, laughing gulls and common terns.
  • Boreal owls hunt thrushes, warblers,woodpeckers and mountain chickadee.
  • Great horned owls eat mallards, american crows, american coots, rock pigeons and ospreys.
  • The Long eared owls usually go for passerine birds and sometime for ruffed grouse.
  • Burrowing owls are known to hunt songbirds, blackbirds and waterbirds.
  • The Northern hawk owls hunt partridges, doves, blackbirds, robins, buntings and jays.
  • The short eared owls are known to eat sandpipers, rails and plovers.

What Do Owls Like To Eat

  • Most of the Owls like to eat rodents:
    • Mice
    • Rats
    • Squirrels
    • Rabbits
    • Skunks

What Do Snowy Owls Eat – What Do White Owls Eat – Snowy Owl Diet

  • The Snowy Owl is found in Alaska, Canada, Northern Russia, Iceland, Greenland and Scandinavia. They eat the medium to small size mammals found in their habitat which includes
    • hares
    • voles
    • muskrats
    • squirrels
    • prairie dogs
    • marmots
    • lemmings
  • They are also hunt geese and small songbirds.

What Do Great Horned Owls Eat – Great Horned Owl Diet.

  • The great horned owl got a very diverse diet. Being opportunistic by nature, the Great Horned Owls hunt small and large mammals and birds.
  • 90% of its diet consists of mammals and the remaining 10% are birds, insects, reptiles and amphibians.
  • Great horned owls love to eat:
    • Voles
    • Mice
    • Rabbits and hares
    • Coots
    • Waterfowls

What Do Burrowing Owls Eat

  • Burrowing Owls are found across North and South America. They are small in size i.e. 19 to 28 cm. Being small in size, they hunt smaller animals which include:
    • moles
    • lizards
    • mice
    • beetles
    • grasshoppers

What Do Barn Owls Eat – Barn Owl Diet

  • Among all the owl species, the Barn Owls are widespread and are found in varied habitat such as farmlands, woodland and hedgerows. Their mainly hunt and eat:
    • Field Vole
    • Bank Voles
    • Shrews
    • Mice
    • Rats
    • Small Birds
  • Read more: What do Barn Owls Eat

What Do Barred Owls Eat

  • Barred owls diet consists of the following animals:
Mammals Birds Fish Insects
Mice Doves Crayfish Earthworms
Shrews Jays Turtles Beetles
Meadow Voles Woodpeckers Frogs Grasshoppers
Rates Quails Fish Crickets
Moles Pigeons Salamanders
Mink Grouse Snakes
Rabbits Icterids Scorpions
Weasels Chicken Lizards
Opossums Smaller owls Slugs
Bats Ducks

What Do Screech Owls Eat

  • Screech Owls  mainly hunt small mammals and large insects. its most favorite animals include:
    • moths
    • beetles
    • scorpions
    • centipedes
    • voles
    • gophers

What Do Great Grey Owls Eat – Great Grey Owl Diet

  • The Great Grey Owl mostly hunts prairie voles. They also hunt:
    • squirrels
    • rabbits
    • gophers
    • weasels
    • small birds
    • toads
    • frogs
    • snakes
    • small raptors

What Do Eagle Owls Eat

  • Eagle Owls have a broad range of diet that they will eat almost anything that moves.
  • Most of its diet consists of mammals such as:
    • Voles
    • rats
    • mice
    • foxes
    • hares
    • many more
  • In birds it will go for almost all of them mainlly:
    • crows
    • ducks
    • grouse
    • seabirds
    • other owls
    • other birds of prey
  • Sometimes it also hunts:
    • snakes
    • lizards
    • frogs
    • fish
    • crabs

What Do Desert Owls Eat

  • Desert Owls also known as desert tawny owl and Hume’s owl eats rodents and small insectivores such as:
    • gerbils
    • jirds
    • mice
    • shrews
    • geckos
    • some passerine birds
    • scorpions
    • grasshoppers
    • beetles

What Do Australian Owls Eat

  • Powerful Owl

    • The Powerful Owl is found in Australia and hunt tree dewelling mammals that are medium or large in size such as:
      • Common Ringtail Possum
      • Pseudocheirus peregrinus
      • the Great Glider
    • It also hunt roosting birds and small ground-dwelling mammals like:
      • rabbits
      • small marsupials
  • Barking Owl

    • It eats small and medium sized mammals like sugar gliders, small roosting birds and large insects.
  • Rufous Owl

    • It hunts medium sized mammals and birds.
  • Southern Boobook

    • It eats large insects, small mammals and birds.
  • Christmas Island Boobook

    • It eats large insects, reptiles and amphibians.

Do Owls Eat Other Owls

  • Yes some owl species eat other owls such as:
    • Snowy owls hunt the short eared owls.
    • The Northern saw whet owls hunt the northern pygmy owls and eat them.
    • Great horned owls hunt other owls which include:
      • short eared owls
      • long eared owls
      • eastern screech owls
      • barred owls
      • burrowing owls.
  • The Northern hawk owls hunt the Boreal owls.

Do Owls Eat Snakes

  • Yes, some species of owls eat snakes such as:
    • Burrowing owls hunt and eat snakes small in size.
    • The long eared owl are known to eat deKay’s brown snakes.
    • Screech Owls eats:
      • Earth Snakes
      • Ground Snakes
      • Blind Snakes
      • Garter Snake
    • Elf Owls eat blind snakes

Do Owls Eat Squirrels

  • Yes, most  species of owls eat squirrels such as:
    • Great horned owl are known to hunt ground squirrels.
    • The spotted owls of california hunt:
      • California ground Squirrels
      • Western Gray Squirrels
      • Douglas Squirrels
    • Burrowing owls eat ground squirrels.
    • The Great Gray Owls hunt flying and red squirrels.
    • Northern pygmy owls hunt tree squirrels.
    • Barn owls hunt both ground and flying squirrels.
    • Red squirrels are also hunted by:
      • Northern Pygmy Owls
      • Northern Hawk Owls
    • Northern flying squirrels are hunted by:
      • Boreal Owls
      • Northern Spotted Owls

Do Owls Eat Frogs

  • Yes some species of owls eat frogs and toads such as:
    • Burrowing Owls
    • Oriental Owls
    • Ashy Face Owls
    • Great Gray Owls

Do Owls Eat Chickens

  • Yes, Owls eat chickens both in the wild and in the captivity.
  • Dead chicks are favorite food for pet owls.
  • The Great Horned Owl is the most common hunter of chickens among other owls.
  • Barn owls and screech owls are also known to hunt and eat chicks and chickens.

Do Owls Eat Fish

  • Yes some species of Owls hunt and eat fish.
  • The Blakiston’s fish owl mainly hunt fish such as pike, trout, salmon fish and catfish. They are also known to catch fish that are twice as heavy as them.
  • Eastern screech owls are known to catch minnows, catfish and shad.
  • Barred Owls also sometimes hunt crayfish.

Do Owls Eat Dogs

  • No, Owls do not eat dogs
  • The Great horned owls are known for hunting and eating black-tailed prairie dogs which are rodents and not dogs.

Do Owls Eat Mice – Do Owls Eat Rats

  • Yes, most of the species of owls eat rats and mice.

Will Owls Eat Cats – Can Owls Eat Cats

  • The Hoot Owl and the Great Horned Owl are known to attack domestic cats but cat is not part of their normal diet.
  • Cats are heavy enough to be lifted by an owl so owls avoid cats.

Do Owls Eat Worms

  • Yes some of the small species of owls feed on worms such as:
    • Barred Owls

Do Owls Eat Plants – Do Owls Eat Fruit

  • No, Owls do not eat plants and fruits as they are carnivores and birds of prey.

Do Owls Eat Rabbits

  • Yes some species of owls eat Rabbits and Hares such as:
    • Long eared Owls
    • Short eared Owls
    • Barn Owls
    • Australian Masked Owls
    • Mexican Spotted Owls
    • Northern Spotted Owls

Do Owls Eat Bats

  • Yes, some species of owls hunt and eat bats such as:
    • Spectacled Owls
    • African Grass Owls
    • Great Horned Owls
    • Burrowing Owls
    • Northern Saw Whet Owl
    • Long Eared Owls


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Written by Murad

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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