What Do Owls Eat – Owls Diet

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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 owls 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 Owl’s Diet and how it varies among its different species.

What Do Owls Eat

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

owl meat eating facts

  • Small Owls
    • Small owls mostly consume 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, intake beetles, moths, centipedes, crickets, and scorpions. Some of the small owls are also known to hunt and kill birds of their size.
  • Big Owls

    • Big owls’ diet varies a lot. As owls are opportunistic, they will eat whatever food they can find. For example:
      • The Great horned owls eat raccoons, 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 the owl’s stomach called a gizzard.
  • It is due to these pellets that help in determining the owl’s 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 a branch of the tree along with its prey to eat it.
  • Owls store their surplus food in tree forks, holes, or 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 baths in pools and ponds.

What Do Owls Eat In Captivity

  • In captivity, the owl’s diet varies according to 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.
  • Captive owls feeders avoid worms, insects, and slugs and sometimes 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 Owls Eat

What Do Baby Owls Eat

  • The simple answer to this question is that baby owls ingest 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 the adult owls of their species. So if you want to know what the baby owls consume, you first need to identify its species and then look for the prey list of that species.

What Do Pet Owls Eat – Owl Diet Food List

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

Owls diet

What Birds Do Owls Eat – Do Owls Eat Birds

  • Birds usually do not form part of the normal diet of the owls but they are taken in when there are no other options.
  • 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 hummingbirds, warblers, wrens, creepers, starlings, 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 sometimes 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 intake sandpipers, rails, and plovers.

What Do Owls Like To Eat

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

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 also hunt geese and small songbirds.

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 consume:
    • Voles
    • Mice
    • Rabbits and hares
    • Coots
    • Waterfowls

Burrowing Owls Diet

  • 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

Barn Owl Diet

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

Owls diet facts

Barred Owls Diet

  • Barred owl’s 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

Screech Owls Diet

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

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

Eagle Owls Diet

  • Eagle Owls have a broad range of diets that they will consume 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 mainly:
    • crows
    • ducks
    • grouse
    • seabirds
    • other owls
    • other birds of prey

Owl facts for kids

  • Sometimes it also hunts:
    • snakes
    • lizards
    • frogs
    • fish
    • crabs

Desert Owls Diet

  • Desert Owls are also known as desert tawny owls and Hume’s owl ingest 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-dwelling mammals that are medium or large such as:
      • Common Ringtail Possum
      • Pseudocheirus peregrinus
      • the Great Glider
    • It also hunts 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.

All about owls facts

Do Owls Eat Other Owls

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

Do Owls Eat Squirrels

  • Yes, most  species of owls feed on squirrels such as:
    • Great horned owls are known to hunt ground squirrels.
    • The spotted owls of California hunt:
      • California ground Squirrels
      • Western Gray Squirrels
      • Douglas Squirrels
    • Burrowing owls consume 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

owl eating squirrel

Do Owls Eat Frogs

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

Do Owls Eat Chickens

  • Yes, Owls consume chickens both in the wild and in captivity.
  • Dead chicks are the 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 feed on chicks and chickens.

Do Owls Eat Fish

  • Yes, some species of Owls hunt and ingest fish.
  • The Blakiston’s fish owl mainly hunts 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 consume 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 feed on 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 a 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 consume plants and fruits as they are carnivores and birds of prey.

barn owl eating facts for kids

Do Owls Eat Rabbits

  • Yes some species of owls feed on 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 feed on bats such as:
    • Spectacled Owls
    • African Grass Owls
    • Great Horned Owls
    • Burrowing Owls
    • Northern Saw-Whet Owl
    • Long-Eared Owls


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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