Animals that eat owls include foxes, snakes, eagles, and even other owls. The owl is towards the top of the food chain so it is usually safe from predation unless it is weak or sick.
Alongside common natural predators, owls are also occasionally hunted by humans. Humans are unlikely to consume owls. Rather, they’re poached for their feathers which are prized in some cultures.
What Eats Owls? (Top 5 Predators)
Adult owls are rarely preyed on by animals- however, foxes, snakes, and humans are the primary threat to owls, especially their owlets.
|Scientific Name||Vulpes vulpes (common red fox)|
|Type of Animal||Mammal|
|Range||UK and Europe east through Russia to Africa|
Owls are large birds. For instance, the Great Horned Owl can average a height of over two feet, wingspan stretching up to five feet and weighing between three and four pounds. This makes them extremely vicious and deadly to any predator.
However, owlets are small and lack the deadly defensive skill of an adult owl, thus making them vulnerable to foxes. If left unattended, these predators take advantage of this rare opportunity and consume them.
It is not all owls that live in trees. Some species of owls predominately live underground, and others nest directly on the ground.
The predominately underground species include the Burrowing owl, while the short-eared owl nest directly nest on the ground. These species of owls are what the foxes mainly prey on.
Owlets depend on mother owls for food, and thus it must leave them unguarded to hunt. It is during this time that foxes attack. This predator cannot risk their lives trying to snatch owlets while the mother is around because it will not hesitate to retaliate when protecting them.
|Type of Animal||Reptile|
Although snakes are not a significant threat to owls, they can still be a threat, especially on owl eggs and owlets. Depending on the size of the snakes, large snakes usually eat owls preferring the owlets and vulnerable adults.
Some snake species also prey on owls’ eggs. They have been known to invade birds’ nests and eat their eggs, and young ones and owls are no exception. Furthermore, snakes can strike an owl if it advertently gets too close.
If a venomous snake strikes an owl, the consequences can be dangerous or fatal. If an opportunity presents itself, a large constrictor snake can comfortably kill and eat an adult owl.
However, they usually do so with extreme caution since the tables can be overturned, considering that owls are extremely territorial and are ready to kill any animal that invades their privacy.
3. Eagles and Hawks
|Scientific Name||Accipitridae (Eagle Family)|
|Type of Animal||Birds|
Eagles and hawks do not prey on owls for food but to mark territories.
Owls, eagles, and hawks are predators and extremely territorial. Although owls hunt during the night, while eagles and hawks hunt during the day, there are instances where their spaces collide. The birds have similar nesting preferences, thus often living in the same territory.
Furthermore, they are all predators preying on the same diet; thus, competition is bound to happen. And when there is competition for a similar commodity, fights are bound to happen.
Although owls hunt during the night, while eagles and hawks hunt during the day, there are certain times they collide. Both the eagle and the hawk hunt into the late hours of the day, and it is during this time, the owl begins its hunt.
Coincidently, a similar occurrence occurs during the day. When eagles and hawks begin to hunt, owls are still hunting.
It is during these hunting sessions that the bird’s paths collide, resulting in deadly fights. Eagles are larger than owls, but their powerful talons compensate owls’ small size. Therefore, an encounter between the two birds can be deadly to both animals.
Even in the abundance of food, each bird sees the other bird as a competitor. The fights can be deadly to either of the birds.
Considering the size of the eagle, owls are normally on the losing side and rarely win against an eagle. However, to compensate for that, owls are wise and clever birds, thus rather than facing the large eagle, they plan strategically to minimize their population.
The small owls that lack the strength and power to fight an eagle or a hawk normally steal baby hawks and eagles from their nests. They attack nests with baby eagles and hawks and those with eggs. This drastically reduces the number of eagles and hawks in that region.
|Type of Animal||Birds|
|Range||Worldwide except polar regions|
Owls are also victims of other owls. Owls are solitary animals that prefer to maintain their privacy, and invasion from other owls usually results in a fight. Additionally, they are extremely territorial and will do anything to safeguard their territory.
Larger owls like the great horned owl are extremely territorial and have attacked and killed other owls that invade their territory.
One major cause of owl fights is habitat destruction through human activities. Destruction of owl’s habitat by human activities forces them to crowd in one region. This means that there will be less food and competition intensifies.
P.S: owls do not prey on other owls as a food source; rather, it is a territorial fight. However, an owl will feast on the dead owl after a kill.
|Scientific Name||Homo sapiens|
|Type of Animal||Mammal|
The major threat to owls is not natural predators but rather humans. The major impact on owls population is deliberate shooting, poisoning, and trapping. For example, in most African traditions, owls are considered a bad omen, and any sighting means that one person from that family where the owl was spotted will die.
On the other hand, the Zuni tribes believed that an owl feather would drive away evil spirits when placed in a baby cot. Others believed that owl feathers brought healing and that hanging a feather in the doorway could keep illness out.
These superstitions have resulted in the killing of owls either to keep them away from your home or to collect their feathers. Apart from superstitions, they are individuals who hunt owls as a sport.
Some human activities are beneficial to the owls, but the negative impacts outweigh the positive ones. For example, logging can clear spaces for the owls to spot and hunt their prey effectively, but if logging is conducted on trees that provide good nesting areas for the owls, it significantly affects them.
On the other hand, the implementation of power lines can provide perching areas that they can use to hunt.
However, the detrimental aspect of power lines towards the owl’s population is electrocution. Reports indicate that electrocution is the leading cause of owl population decline. Barbed-wire fences also cause electrocution.
Chemical contamination is also a threat to the owl population. Although the effect of chemical contamination does not directly kill owls, they are affected through bioaccumulation. Chemical accumulation occurs up the food chain.
Considering that owls are on top of the food chain, the chemicals accumulated by their prey are strong enough to affect them. On the other hand, chemicals also cause secondary poisoning to owls. Secondary poisoning occurs when a prey ingests a chemical that it cannot break down.
The other human activity that affects owls’ population is habitat alteration due to increased farming and ranching. Habitat alteration results in habitat loss either through urbanization, logging, or construction of man-made structures.
How do Owls Protect Themselves?
Owls are predators with perfect natural camouflage, sharp beaks, and powerful talons. This makes it hard for other animals to prey on them. However, depending on habitats, they also fall prey to other predators.
Although it is hard to locate an owl due to its near-perfect natural camouflage, its distinctive sounds and vivid eyes can give away its location to predators.
It is very rare for adult owls to be susceptible to other predators. The most susceptible owls are the sick and young owls because of their vulnerability and lack of ability to defend themselves when attacked. Also, owl’s eggs are a delicacy to other predators.
It is unbelievable that even a bird considered top of the food chain has predators. Some of the predators discussed in this article will surprise you.
Read Next: Do Owls Hibernate?
Owls are top of the food chain, with stealth hunting skills. Furthermore, they are nocturnal, thus minimizing the number of natural predators. Coincidentally, their powerful talons and beaks intimidate animals that might prey on them.
However, human activity poses major threats to their existence, and stringent measures are not put forth, the owls’ population will drastically fall. Furthermore, superstitions about owls should be eliminated as a control measure.
Joe is a freelance writer for FaunaFacts. Joe has written extensively about snakes for the site, but also contributes content about a range of animals.