Do Owls Eat Squirrels?


It doesn’t matter whether you are a gardener looking for cheap methods of deterring squirrels and other rodents away from your garden, a pet owner looking for live feed for their bird, a house owner disturbed by squirrels damaging their bird feeders, or just an inquisitive person, you may want to know if owls eat squirrels.

owl eating a squirrel

In this article, we will discuss owls feeding on squirrels, the types of owls that prefer squirrels, and other animal prey for owls.

Do Owls Eat Squirrels?

Owls are carnivorous birds. Birds that are carnivorous and hunt for food are termed “birds of prey”. As carnivorous birds, owls do not eat fruits nor other products of plants.

Owls eat insects, reptiles, other birds, mammals, etc. Squirrels are small mammals found in trees, so squirrels amongst other rodents are examples of mammals that owls eat.

Owls will hunt and feed on squirrels and other small mammals when they are available. Squirrels are most vulnerable to owl attacks when they are on the ground.

What Types of Owls Commonly Eats Squirrels?

owl hunting

Owls are diverse in size, habitats, feeding habits, etc. While a majority of owls are opportunistic and will eat whatever prey they can find, some kinds of owls have food preferences. Examples of owls that search for and prey on squirrels include:

  • Barn Owls
  • Tawny Owl
  • Barred Owls
  • Long-Eared Owl
  • Great Horned Owls
  • Northern White-faced Owl
  • Southern White-faced Owl, etc.

Generally, the size of owls determines what they prey on. Smaller owls eat invertebrates such as insects, spiders, worms, etc. while larger owls eat rodents (squirrels, mice, etc.), hares, birds, etc.

Are Squirrels Afraid of Owls?

squirrel hiding in tree

Yes! Like all rodents, squirrels are afraid of owls and other predators. People have been using owl decoys to keep squirrels away from their homes and garden.

Squirrels are small mammals with excellent senses (sight, smelling, hearing, etc.). When squirrels feel that there is a predator nearby, they run into their nests.

Do Owls Attack Squirrels?

There are a few videos of owls attacking squirrels and chipmunks. This is my favorite:

Most squirrels are usually diurnal (i.e. mostly active during the day) or crepuscular (i.e. mostly active at dusk or twilight). Owls are nocturnal (i.e. mostly active at night) and can sometimes be seen flying at dawn and dusk.

This means that owls have the chance of hunting for squirrels in the morning or evening. As stated earlier, owls are opportunistic feeders and will hunt whatever prey they can find when they are active. When an owl spots a squirrel, it will hunt it.

Other Animals Owls Eat

owl with a captured small rodent

As birds of prey, owls eat a wide range of animals. The choice of food for owls is usually determined by the size and habitat (location) of the owl. Small owls like the Eastern Screech Owl, Elf Owl, etc. eat animals such as:

  • Mice
  • Moths
  • Shrews
  • Crickets
  • Scorpions
  • Centipedes
  • Small birds, etc.

Large owls like the Great Horned Owl, African Fishing Owl, Barn Owls, etc. have a diversity of food and eating habits.

  • Owls like Asian Fish Owls and African Fishing Owls hunt for fish and frogs from water surfaces at night.
  • According to National Geographic, The Great Horned Owl (which is the most common owl in America) eats mammals such as cats, small dogs, raccoons, squirrels, etc. Great Horned Owls also eat birds like the Falcons.
  • Eagle Owls (as their name suggests) hunt eagles. They can also hunt small deer.
  • Barn Owls primarily prey on rodents. As opportunistic feeders, they also hunt bats, rabbits, other birds, etc.

Owls are nocturnal, so their feeding habit in the wild is not fully known like that of diurnal birds. To study what owls eat, scientists usually examine their pellets.

owl pellet

According to Wikipedia, a bird pellet is a mass of undigested food particles like bones, furs, etc. regurgitated by certain species of birds. When owl pellets are examined, what they ate can be identified by studying the furs, bones, and other undigested parts found.

Final Thoughts

Owls are nocturnal birds of prey that hunt a wide range of animals. Animals that owls hunt include squirrels, bats, insects, other birds, etc. Different types of owls in different habitats have different food preferences.

Squirrels are pests to farmers and gardeners. They can also damage birdfeeders in your lawn. Squirrels are afraid of owls, so they can be deterred away from your home or garden by hanging owl decoys.

Other Sources:

April

April is an avid animal enthusiast with a love for the outdoors. She has a bachelor's degree in Agriculture and masters degree work in large animal reproduction. Currently, she lives in Southern California where she enjoys all things outdoors.

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