What Do Barn Owls Eat? (Complete Guide) (2023)

What animals do barn owls eat?

What birds do barn owls eat?

How much does a barn owl eat per day?

How do barn owls find food?

What time of day do barn owls feed?

What do barn owls eat in the winter?

What do barn owls eat during spring and summer?

(Video) Watch Barn Owls Swallow Rodents Whole | Deep Look

What do baby barn owls eat?

What do barn owls drink?

How do I attract barn owls to my yard?

Are barn owls carnivores?

Barn Owl Diet FAQs

Barn owls, like other owl species, are excellent hunters. They possess superb hearing and eyesight that allows them to pinpoint the exact location of their prey in complete darkness. So, what do barn owls eat?

The diet of the barn owl primarily consists of rodents and other small mammals, such as bats and rabbits. They will occasionally eat birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish as well. Although, the latter are preyed upon more opportunistically rather than sought out.

Owls typically hunt smaller prey because they consume their meals whole, then regurgitate anything non-digestible in the form of a pellet. In this article, we will dive deeper into the diet and hunting specialties of the barn owl. Read on to discover more about these fascinating birds of prey!

What Do Barn Owls Eat? (Complete Guide) (1)

A perched Barn Owl eating a mouse

(Video) A guide to Barn Owl habitats

What animals do barn owls eat?

Barn owls primarily eat small rodents, such as mice, rats, voles, moles, and lemmings. They also feed on other small mammals, including rabbits, bats, and shrews. Reptiles, amphibians, and fish are occasionally taken, but on a far less regular basis.

Because these owls are nocturnal, animals that are only active during the day (i.e. squirrels) generally do not fall prey to barn owls.

What birds do barn owls eat?

Along with mammals and the occasional fish, reptile, or amphibian, barn owls also consume small birds. Blackbirds, starlings, and meadowlarks are sometimes preyed upon by the barn owl.

What Do Barn Owls Eat? (Complete Guide) (2)

Barn Owl in flight hunting for prey

How much does a barn owl eat per day?

How much a barn owl eats per day depends largely on its body weight. They typically consume at least 10% of their body weight every day. However, when food is plentiful, a barn owl may eat more than average.

How do barn owls find food?

Like other owl species, barn owls are superior hunters, possessing excellent hearing and eyesight. They use both of these senses to find food. A barn owl will either hunt from a perch or low flight. Serrated wing feathers allow the birds to glide silently over open ground, while their unparalleled hearing enables them to pinpoint prey in complete darkness.

What time of day do barn owls feed?

Barn owls are nocturnal. They primarily hunt and feed at night. On rare occasions, such as during winter when nighttime temperatures are too cold, barn owls will hunt during the day.

What do barn owls eat in the winter?

Barn owls primarily eat small mammals and birds throughout winter. Rodents, such as mice and voles, are less accessible during this season because they are often hibernating underground or beneath deep snow.

What Do Barn Owls Eat? (Complete Guide) (4)

During the winter, Barn Owls often hunt during the day

What do barn owls eat during spring and summer?

The barn owl has a varied diet of small mammals, birds, and reptiles during spring and summer. They also occasionally eat amphibians, fish, and insects. However, rodents make up the largest percentage of the barn owl's summer diet.

What do baby barn owls eat?

Baby barn owls are carnivorous like their parents. They will eat whatever meal adults bring back to the nest. Small mammals make up the majority of their diets, but nestlings will also consume fish, birds, and insects.

What Do Barn Owls Eat? (Complete Guide) (5)

Barn owl feeding their chick with a mouse

(Video) An Introduction to the Barn Owl

What can you feed barn owls?

A barn owl’s natural diet consists primarily of rodents and other small mammals, which the birds can easily find in the wild. Feeding or baiting wild owls is not a good idea as it could prove detrimental to the bird.

Rodents such as mice and rats, particularly those bought at a pet store, have the potential to pass deadly parasites and pathogens to the owl. Rat poison is another potential hazard. If a barn owl consumes a rodent that has encountered poison, the owl will also be poisoned and likely die.

Habituating a barn owl to be comfortable around humans can also pose a great risk. If you live near busy roads, an owl is likely to get struck by a car while hunting. They may even eventually encounter a person who would harm them.

In the event you come across an injured owl, it is best to contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator.

What Do Barn Owls Eat? (Complete Guide) (6)

Barn Owls do most of their hunting during the night

What do barn owls drink?

Barn owls rarely seek out water to drink. The birds get most of the hydration they need from the food they eat.

How do I attract barn owls to my yard?

As previously discussed, baiting or feeding a barn owl poses several risks to the owl's health. However, if an owl naturally takes up residence in or near your yard, you may have a mutually beneficial relationship.

Owls are excellent hunters. They do not need to be provided food. If left to their natural hunting routines, the owls will help manage rodent populations on your property. Just be sure you never use rat poisoning, as this could also be detrimental to the owl or any other creature hunting the rodents.

As their name suggests, barn owls often nest in abandoned barns and other structures. They also use overhangs and cavities in trees or cliffs. The owls typically nest near open areas and forest edges for access to the best hunting.

If you live on the edge of a field or agricultural area and have some sort of abandoned structure on your property, you already have the right habitat to attract a barn owl. You can also provide a nest box mounted on a tall pole or tree. Finally, you will want to keep outdoor lighting to a minimum. Owls prefer to hunt in complete darkness.

What Do Barn Owls Eat? (Complete Guide) (7)

Close up of a Barn owl in flight

Are barn owls carnivores?

Barn owls are carnivores. They exclusively eat other animals, including mammals, birds, reptiles, fish, amphibians, and insects.

Barn Owl Diet FAQs

How many mice does a barn owl eat per day?

On average, a barn owl will eat three to four mice in a night. They generally consume at least 10% of their body weight every day.

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Can you feed wild barn owls?

Feeding or baiting wild barn owls poses a great risk to the owl. The animals you provide may carry harmful pathogens or parasites or could have consumed poison. Habituating owls to humans is also dangerous as it could result in an owl approaching a person who may harm them.

Do barn owls hunt during the day?

Barn owls are nocturnal, meaning they are active at night. Daytime hunting only occurs on very seldom occasions. If you see an owl hunting during the day, do not be alarmed. It is not abnormal, owls simply prefer hunting at night.

Do barn owls eat cats?

Barn owls have a varied diet that primarily consists of small mammals, occasionally including cats. If you are concerned about a barn owl attacking your cat, it is best to keep it indoors at night.

What Do Barn Owls Eat? (Complete Guide) (8)

Barn owl flying above the grass during a cold winter morning

Do barn owls eat snakes?

Barn owls will eat snakes, however, they are not a regular part of the owl’s diet. These owls prefer preying on mammals but will catch and eat snakes when the opportunity arises.

Do barn owls eat chickens?

Barn owls rarely eat chickens. Most poultry breeds are too large for a barn owl to kill and eat.

Do barn owls eat squirrels?

Barn owls will occasionally eat squirrels. However, squirrels are rarely preyed upon by these owls because they are diurnal, whereas owls are nocturnal - primarily active at night.

What Do Barn Owls Eat? (Complete Guide) (9)

A Barn owl eating a mouse whilst perched in a tree in autumn

Do barn owls eat rabbits?

Rabbits are a fairly regular part of the barn owl diet. Although, rodents are consumed most frequently.

Do barn owls eat rats?

Barn owls regularly eat rats and other rodents, such as mice, voles, and lemmings.

Do barn owls eat fish?

Barn owls eat fish on rare occasions. They prefer rodents, other small mammals, or birds.

Do barn owls eat moles?

Barn owls regularly eat moles and other rodents, such as mice, voles, rats, and shrews.

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What does Barn Owls eat? ›

Barn Owls eat mostly small mammals, particularly rats, mice, voles, lemmings, and other rodents; also shrews, bats, and rabbits. Most of the prey they eat are active at night, so squirrels and chipmunks are relatively safe from Barn Owls. They occasionally eat birds such as starlings, blackbirds, and meadowlarks.

What do Barn Owls eat the most? ›

Diet. Mostly rodents. Feeds heavily on voles; also takes various kinds of mice, small rats, shrews, young rabbits, other mammals. Eats very small numbers of birds, lizards, insects, rarely frogs or even fish.

Do Barn Owls eat their prey whole? ›

Owls Cannot Chew

Like other birds, owls do not have teeth to chew their food. They use their sharp, hooked bills to tear the flesh of prey into pieces, often crushing their skulls and other bones. They can also swallow small prey whole, usually head-first.

How many animals does a barn owl eat per day? ›

Scientists estimate that Barn Owls eat at least one rat a day. If you think of an entire owl family – an adult male and female plus one or two young – we are talking about three or four rats a day.

What do owls like to eat the most? ›

Invertebrates, including earthworms and beetles, are common in their diet, along with some small mammals. In the breeding season they are also known to take small birds. Little owls can often be seen perching on branches or rocks.

How do Barn Owls eat their prey? ›

The favored prey of barn owls is rodents, including voles and gophers. Like other owls, they often swallow their prey whole and then undigested bones and fur are coughed up (regurgitated) as owl pellets.

What food attracts owls? ›

Food: Owls will not visit bird feeders, but it is possible to provide a steady food source for these hunters. Because owls eat mice, voles, gophers, and similar small rodents, birders who have mice nearby are more likely to attract owls.

What does a barn owl need to survive? ›

The barn owl lives in open areas, forest edges, and clearings, farmland, and cities. It needs areas with open land for hunting. The barn owl is often found roosting in tree cavities, crevices in cliffs, or in riverbanks. It also roosts in buildings like barns.

Do owls eat rats or mice? ›

Controls a Variety of Pests -- Mice, rats, voles, squirrels, skunks, and rabbits that constantly cause damage and feast on your plants are all part of an owl's diet.

Do owls eat food whole? ›

Owls swallow their prey whole or in large pieces, but they cannot digest fur, teeth, bones, or feathers. Like other birds, owls have two chambers in their stomachs. In the first chamber, the glandular stomach or proventriculus, all the digestible parts of an owl's meal are liquefied.

Do owls eat meat or vegetables? ›

Their diet includes invertebrates (such as insects, spiders, earthworms, snails and crabs), fish, reptiles, amphibians, birds and small mammals. The main food largely depends on the species of Owl. For example, Scops and Screech Owls feed on insects mostly, while Barn Owls eat mainly mice, shrews and voles.

Do owls eat full grown chickens? ›

If adult birds are missing but no other signs of disturbance exist, the predator probably is a dog, a coyote, a fox, a bobcat, a hawk, or an owl. These predators typically are able to kill, pick up, and carry off an adult chicken. Hawks typically take chickens during the day, whereas owls take them during the night.

What animals do owls eat most? ›

Small, rodent-like mammals, such as voles and mice, are the primary prey for many owl species. An owl's diet may also include frogs, lizards, snakes, fish, mice, rabbits, birds, squirrels, and other creatures.

Can an owl pick up an 8 pound dog? ›

Great horned owls can carry as much as 9 pounds, which means they could snatch a Chihuahua or a Yorkshire Terrier. You'll find several examples of owl attacks on dogs in the news. In January 2022, a snowy owl attacked a Bichon Frise in Ontario, Canada, leaving their owner with $800 in medical bills.

Can an owl pick up a 5 lb dog? ›

Even very small dogs may be too heavy for a hawk or owl to carry, although it's still possible that large raptors might attack them.

How do you feed owls in your yard? ›

These mostly nocturnal birds like to eat rodents and are not likely to hang out in your backyard for a lengthy amount of time. "Food can be provided by leaving piles of sticks and brush around the yard. Such structures attract mice, other rodents, and rabbits that the owls eat depending on the species," explains Smith.

Do owls eat cats or dogs? ›

The answer is yes, Great Horned Owls do on rare occasions attempt to catch and kill small cats and very small dogs. They are not always successful in attempts to kill them, but pets can wind up with significant injuries if they survive an attack.

What do owls usually eat? ›

Owls eat a variety of small animals, including mice, rats, frogs, birds, squirrels, snakes, fish, and lizards.

How many mice will a barn owl eat? ›

An adult barn owl will catch and eat up to 12 rodents per night while brooding in the late spring and early summer. Even without babies to feed they maintain a steady nightly hunting routine of several rats, mice and moles. Owls fly with almost no noise at all making it easy to sneak up on an unsuspecting rat or mouse.

Do Barn Owls eat meat? ›

Barn owls are carnivores who rely on meat. They are birds of prey who eat reptiles, fish, amphibians, rodents, rabbits, small foxes, and other small birds. Overall, there are about 16 species of barn owls. For example, we have the African, Australian, Asian, and European barn owls.

What foods are toxic to owls? ›

Toxic Foods Your Bird Should Never Eat
  • Avocado.
  • Caffeine.
  • Chocolate.
  • Salt.
  • Fat.
  • Fruit pits and apple seeds.
  • Onions and garlic.
  • Xylitol.

What attracts owls to your yard? ›

Provide bird baths.

Like other birds, owls may be attracted by a large bird bath from which to drink and bathe. Mow the lawn less often to give owls a more appealing hunting ground. Mice and other small rodents are likelier to traffic spans of grass left a little longer.

What are 5 things owls eat? ›

What do Owls eat? Owls are Birds of Prey, which means that they must kill other animals to survive. Their diet includes invertebrates (such as insects, spiders, earthworms, snails and crabs), fish, reptiles, amphibians, birds and small mammals.

Can Barn Owls survive winter? ›

Barn Owls are poorly insulated and need extra energy (food) during cold weather to make up for an increased loss of body heat. In winter then, food is generally harder to find at a time when Barn Owls need it most.

What habitat do owls need? ›

Owls live in a variety of habitats, including coniferous forests, mountains, deserts, and plains. The snowy owl lives in the cold tundra of the north. Owls nest in a variety of ways. Several species, such as great gray and great horned owls, live in old hawk or squirrel nests.

Do owls eat dead animals? ›

CHAMPAIGN, Ill., 11/18/19: Owls have never been known as scavengers that eat decaying flesh, but the behavior is more widespread than once believed, according to University of Illinois researchers at the Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS) who photographed owls scavenging in the night.

Do owls eat snakes? ›

Yes, owls do eat snakes. Snakes are not the main food in their diet, but they will eat one if they come across one. Owls are opportunistic eaters so they will eat what they can find. Owls living in different habitats will adapt to the food sources that are available.

Do owls have a natural predator? ›

Animals such as wildcats, foxes, raccoons, weasels, snakes, squirrels, hawks, skunks, and eagles eat owls. The access these predators have to these winged creatures depends on the owl's habitat, size, and species. Owls are at the high-end of the food chain, and luckily, they do not have many natural predators.

Why do Barn Owls swallow their food whole? ›

Scarfing down their food whole keeps barn owls moving. After all, these hungry birds gotta eat and there are lots of little rodents to hunt. Barn owls need a hole to nest in, and when a tree isn't available, they'll use a building. Or an owl box, like this one in California's Napa Valley.

Why do owls have 2 stomachs? ›

An owl has two stomachs. The first one, called the glandular stomach, produces acids, chemicals and mucus that help separate the digestible and indigestible parts of its prey. The second stomach, called the gizzard, is very muscular and grinds up the meaty part of the meal.

Will owls eat hamburger? ›

And this is not a creature who will eat hamburgers or steak—owls eat only whole animals, such as rodents, that must be purchased from commercial sources.

Can Barn Owls eat fruit? ›

Barn Owls are birds of prey or raptors – specialised hunters at the top of the food chain, which means that they need to eat prey animals to survive. Prey animals – mainly small mammals – eat other smaller creatures or plants, seeds and fruits.

Can you feed owls raw chicken? ›

You should never feed raw chicken to birds of prey to entice them into your garden. Instead, do all you can for these types of birds, attract their prey to your garden, and draw them in more naturally. Raw chicken could also become a source of pathogens and spread disease.

What scares owls away? ›

Try noisemakers, alarms, horns or whistles. If you annoy the owl enough, the owl will go away.

Can I shoot an owl if its killing my chickens? ›

Owls and hawks are both species that are protected by federal laws, so you cannot hunt or trap them, even if they are eating your chickens.

How do you tell if an owl killed my chickens? ›

If the head and back of the neck are missing, suspect a weasel or mink. If the head and neck are missing, and feathers are scattered near a fence post, the likely perpetrator was a great horned owl.

What can I feed the owls in my yard? ›

Food: Owls will not visit bird feeders, but it is possible to provide a steady food source for these hunters. Because owls eat mice, voles, gophers, and similar small rodents, birders who have mice nearby are more likely to attract owls.

What food can I put out for owls? ›

You can feed your pet barn owls with dead day-old chicks, rats, and mice. It's also advisable that you supplement minerals and vitamins, but be careful not to overdo it. An adult barn owl may eat 3 voles per night, which is equivalent to 2-3 dead day-old chicks.

Are barn owls good to have around? ›

A new study shows just how much owls can help farmers reduce rodents in their fields. If you're a farmer looking for an environmentally friendly and cost-effective form of pest control, look no further than your neighborhood barn owl.

What attracts a barn owl? ›

Barn owls live in open woodlands, pastures and croplands and are attracted to areas with large rodent populations, such as where grain and forage crops are produced and near grain storage facilities.

How do you feed a barn owl? ›

A Barn Owl will usually swallow small prey items whole. It is much better to provide small food items for Barn Owls rather than small parts of larger animals (such as pieces of meat). Items such as slugs, worms and insects are not suitable, but the occasional small bird or frog may be eaten.

Is it good to have owls in your yard? ›

Owls can be troublesome for some, but if outdoor pets or chickens aren't part of your backyard life, attracting owls to the yard can help reduce a pest population often hard to manage without resorting to drastic means. Over a single season, an owl will devour hundreds of garden-munching rodents and other pests.

How do you make an owl happy? ›

10 ways to encourage wild Barn Owls

Provide a roosting and nesting place. Avoid using Rat Poison (rodenticides). Offer extra food in bad weather. Buy from wildlife-friendly farmers.

What time are barn owls most active? ›

Are barn owls nocturnal? Barn owls are most active at dusk and dawn, but in winter or after prolonged rainfall, they may need to hunt during the day in order to survive.

How smart is a barn owl? ›

Barn owls are just like us.

These birds of prey are highly sensitive and intelligent creatures who have complex communication systems and cooperative social structures.

Why do farmers want owls in their barns? ›

They are natural predators of gophers and voles which can be really horrible pests for agriculture.” But as good as the owls can be at controlling rodents on farms, growers may still need rodenticides to control the population explosions that can happen with any small rodent species.

What helps barn owls survive? ›

Barn owls hunt at night and eat mostly small mammals like voles, rats, rabbits and shrews. Barn owls have excellent vision and incredible hearing that helps them locate and capture prey even in total darkness. Their soft feathers muffle the sound of their movement, allowing them to sneak up on prey undetected.

What trees do owls like to nest in? ›

Most kinds of owls like to hide inside dense cover during the day and venture out only at night. Evergreen trees provide this kind of shelter year-round. Depending on where you live, ideal choices include pine, spruce or juniper; check with a local native plant nursery to find out which grows best in your region.

What does it mean if an owl visits you? ›

Wisdom through hardship.

"Owls are true messengers of the spiritual realm," explains Kirsten. "They can appear as a symbol during challenging times as a guide. Unlike any other animal symbol, they relay truth, understanding, patience, and wisdom to us when we need it most.


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