Owls prey on various animals, including invertebrates, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and mammals. But while all species of owls are carnivores, their primary food may differ. Nonetheless, many owl species share similar primary prey.
In this article, we go over 23 things owls love to eat.
We start out with a shocker – owls eat other owls. As expected, it is usually the larger ones going after smaller ones.
You may find Snowy Owls preying on Short-Eared Owls. Great-Horned Owls also go after Short-Eared Owls, Burrowing Owls, Barred Owls, and Long-eared Owls.
Fish are prey to a couple of owl species. In fact, there is a group of owls called the Fish Owls. Members of the Fish Owls group are typically from the Ketupa genus. Some of them include the Buffy Fish Owl, the Brown Fish Owl, and the Tawny Fish Owl.
Interestingly, the largest owl species, the Blackiston’s Fish Owl, is also a fish owl.
But unlike the species mentioned above, it belongs to the Bubo genus. Blackiston’s Fish Owls feed primarily on salmon. But they may also eat trout, catfish, and pike.
Besides the Fish Owls, there is another group of owls called the Fishing Owls. The species of this group belong to the Scotopelia genus. They include the Vermiculated Fishing Owl, the Rufous Fishing Owl, and Pel’s Fishing Owl. Evidently, they prefer eating fish, too.
Smaller owls like the Elf Owl and the Eastern Screech Owls fancy eating beetles. Obviously, considering their relatively minute size, it is easier for them to go after insects like beetles.
Well, this one is not very surprising; virtually all birds love eating earthworms, even domestic birds.
While smaller owls like Elf Owls, Little Owls, Burrowing Owls, and Spotted Owls typically eat earthworms, the larger ones rarely do.
Barred Owls typically live near water. So, it is no surprise that they sometimes swoop crayfish out of the water bodies around them.
Eastern Screech Owls also live close to streams and wetlands. And when they can, they also feast on crayfish.
Squirrels commonly fall prey to medium to large-sized owls. So, owls like Great Horned, Barred, Great Gray, Spotted Owls, and Snowy Owls eat squirrels.
Because squirrels are crepuscular, one may think that they are somewhat safe from owls. But since many species of owls are known to hunt them, this may not be as true as expected.
One species of owl that fancies voles a lot is the Barn Owl. According to studies, Barn Owls are documented to preferentially prey on pregnant voles.
This preference makes them an effective rodent control mechanism. An estimate states that one Barn Owl can eat as many as 3000 voles in a year.
While Barn Owls are known to go after voles, they are not the only owl species to do so. Many others, including the Eastern Screech Owls, also eat voles.
As with beetles, smaller owl species like the Sparrow-Sized Elf Owls and the Screech Owls feed on moths. Flammulated Owls are also insectivores. So, you may also find them eating moths as well.
Barn Owls are known to primarily prey on mice. It is estimated that they can eat as much as 60 grams of mice in one day. Of course, this depends on availability.
It is worthy to note that Barn Owls are one of the two families of owls, and this family contains up to 20 species. However, one of those species is called the Common Barn Owl.
Many species of the barn owl family feed on rodents. Some of their prey include rats, voles, mice, and shrews.
Great Horned Owls and Burrowing Owls also love eating mice.
As you may have guessed, Barn Owls love eating shrews, too. They feast on basically all small to medium-sized rodents.
Away from the Barn Owl family, Burrowing Owls – a species of Typical Owls – also feed on rodents.
Elf Owls love feeding on scorpions. While Ferruginous Pygmy Owls love eating small reptiles and large-sized insects, they may also eat scorpions. Desert Owls and Barred Owls also eat scorpions.
But thanks to the swiftness of their hunt, this is not likely to happen.
Whenever they can, Great Horned Owls feed on juvenile raccoons. In some cases, they even go after the older ones.
Warblers are a group of many small songbird species. Some of them include the Ovenbird, Worm-Eating Bird, and Bachman’s Warbler.
Most Warblers are small-sized. So, they can fall prey to various species of owls, particularly medium to large-sized ones. However, you are more likely to find owls like Boreal Owls, Burrowing Owls, and Screech Owls eating warblers.
One advantage owls have over other birds is night vision. Owls have better perception than most birds in the dark. And since they typically hunt at night, they can easily sneak up on their prey.
Owls that love feeding on doves include Northern Hawk Owls, Screech Owls, and even Boreal Owls.
Barn Owls are known to go after Tree Sparrows and House Sparrows.
The Great Horned Owls typically go after small mammals, game birds, hawks, and crows. But whenever they can, they hunt pigeons.
Falcons might be birds of prey, but to large owls, they are the prey. The Great Horned Owls and Eagle Owls are known to consume falcon whenever they are available.
Owls hunt falcons, both the chicks and the adults. In fact, the predation of owls on Peregrine Falcons has been a snag in their recovery in specific regions.
This might come as a shocker because owls and domestic cats are about the same size. But it happens; owls eat cats. Some of the cat-eating owls include Great Horned Owls, Hoot Owls, and Eagle Owls.
It is uncommon to find owls eating cats; cats are not the lightest targets. But when an individual feline is a perfect prey, they will not hesitate.
Just as they attack cats, Great Horned Owls and some other large owls will attack small dogs. The dogs they attack are typically not heavier than 20 pounds.
You should not be too worried about your puppy getting eaten by an owl. Owls typically hunt at night, so if your dog or puppy is well sheltered, it will not get eaten by an owl.
As with the other young mammals we have mentioned, Eagle Owls, Great Horned Owls, and other large owls may prey on young foxes.
Snowy Owls, Great Horned Owls, and Eagle Owls are some large-sized owls that go after hares.
But preying on hares is not limited to large owls. Medium-sized owls like Barn Owls, Long-Eared Owls, and Short-Eared Owls also feast on hares.
Many species of owls eat frogs – both the large owls and the smaller owls. Some of them include Burrowing Owls, Great Gray Owls, Ashy Face Owls, and Oriental Owls. Even Eagle Owls sometimes go after frogs.
Some Fish Owls and Fishing Owls also eat frogs.
Because lizards are diurnal, they fall prey to owls less often. Nonetheless, Barred Owls, Eagle Owls, Burrowing Owls, and many others feed on lizards when they can.