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Are Owls Dangerous?

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Owls are beautiful birds that seem to rack up millions of views in viral videos yearly. Baby owls are adorable, but it’s important to remember that they grow into cunning and efficient predator birds.

Owls’ diet consists mainly of meat. Hence, they’re predatory birds. Britannica lists the great horned owl as one of the six most dangerous birds. Owls are dangerous to dogs, cats, and other small pets. They also threaten humans when people get too close to their nests.

Owl sit in a tree and looking on the the camera

There have been several documented cases of owls attacking humans. In the past, affected people have been scared to leave their homes at night or in the early morning for fear of being attacked by a swooping owl.

An owl attack is also a big part of a famous murder case, the Peterson trial, where the husband was convicted of killing his wife. Attorneys representing Michael Peterson, however, suggested that his wife was killed by nesting owls known to be around their house.

Owl attacks are common enough that the theory received plenty of news coverage and was highlighted in documentaries and HBO series.

Here are some helpful information on owls and what you can do to avoid threats to you and the pets you keep at home.

Will Owls Only Attack Humans at Night?

Owls rarely attack humans.

Usually, owls will only swoop down and sink their talons into animals they can carry away and eat.

However, sometimes owls attack humans when they feel threatened or territorial. These attacks typically happen only at night when the owls are most active. Owls are nocturnal hunters, so they sleep or seek shelter when it’s bright outside.

Occasionally owls attack humans and large animals early in the morning when it’s hard for potential victims to see them coming. Owls see clearly when it’s very dark outside, and more light exposure makes it more challenging to tell the difference between animals.


Are Owls Dangerous to Humans?

Owls are dangerous to humans. These are large adult birds with very sharp talons and beaks. Their talons measure inches long, and they can easily pierce the skin.

Even their size makes them dangerous. In March 2022, a victim of a rare owl attack said that the bird colliding with her back felt like she was hit with a bat. In one neighborhood in Georgia, victims registered over eighty owl attacks.

The owls even attacked children waiting for their school bus early in the morning. Owl attacks often make people who live in heavily wooded areas feel concerned for their safety. As a result, people often walk outside with umbrellas or wear helmets to protect themselves.

Cat and dog looks afraid looking on something

Are Owls Dangerous to Dogs and Cats?

An aggressive owl will attack dogs if they feel the pet is an easy target. In most cases, the barking of a dog is enough to scare off an owl, but if the dog is small and the owl is particularly assertive, such a dog could become the owl’s next meal.

The same goes for cats. Cats are typically smaller than dogs, so it’s normal for owls to see them as easy targets. Cats also have excellent night and evening vision, so it’s easier for them to see incoming threats from owls and other predatory birds.

A barred owl in the Everglades National Park, Florida.

Are Barred Owls Dangerous?

Barred owls are some of the most aggressive owls of all owl species! They are highly territorial and attack people and dogs if they come too close. Risks escalate during barred owl mating season when owls are more likely to attack because they naturally feel more aggressive during this time.

Their ability to fly quietly makes them so dangerous. It’s hard to hear when they’re coming or flying in the area. They typically attack people on the head or in the face. Female barred owls are more likely to attack humans because they have strong protective instincts.

Magnificent Barn Owl perched on a stump in the forest

Are Barn Owls Dangerous?

Barn owls are called barn owls because they take shelter in barns, attics, garages, sheds, and other manufactured structures. However, these owls are some of the least dangerous owl species.

When push comes to shove, barn owls are known to abandon young chicks or eggs in the nest when humans come too close. So, you shouldn’t be especially worried about attacks from barn owls in the area.

Great Horned Owl standing on a rock against blurry forest background

Are Great Horned Owls Dangerous?

As mentioned, Britannica listed the great horned owl as one of the six most dangerous birds in the world.

This powerful predatory bird is sometimes called the tiger of the sky and is the most dangerous of all owls. They are large, with wingspans of up to five feet long. They have powerful talons and can quickly kill prey much larger than they are.

They are also very territorial and attack animals that get too close to their nests, including humans.

Snowy Owl standing on a sandy beach.

Are Snowy Owls Dangerous?

You’re unlikely to see snowy owls out in the wild because they’re an endangered species. If you’re lucky enough to see one, however, you should take care. These owls are specialized hunters that won’t hesitate to attack a human if they feel threatened!

Thankfully, the documented attacks on humans by snowy owls aren’t so much to call for concern, but these incredible animals are known to fight off other walking predators that get in their spaces.

Tawny Owl resting on a tree branch with blurred snowy background

Are Tawny Owls Dangerous?

Female tawny owls are very protective, so they could attack you if you get too close to their chicks or enter their territory. Strikes often target the head, hands, and face. Also, these owls aren’t usually seen during the day, so there is a much higher risk of attack if you’re out in the woods at night.

Can an Owl Kill You?

It would be very difficult for an owl to kill a person.

While it’s certainly possible, you’re much more likely to successfully fight off the bird and get medical attention before dying. The talons are sharp, but their cuts are unlikely to break through bones in the skull, which makes most of the injuries they inflict superficial.

However, deep cuts left untreated for long enough can result in significant blood loss that can kill a human.

Owl in attacking position against sunlight

What to Do If an Owl Attacks?

An owl attack can be terrifying and sudden. Unfortunately, you usually won’t notice the bird until it’s on top of you already, cutting you and pecking at your head.

If an owl attacks, you should flail your arms up and down and start screaming to make a lot of noise.

Owls are used to making quick kills on smaller animals like mice and other rodents, so putting up a fight is an excellent way to scare them off.

Cover your head to protect your skull and move toward areas with better lighting, traffic, and other signs of human life. Owls prefer to stay in dark places with coverage, so getting out into the open is more likely to get them off you.


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