Yes, owls eat snakes. They hunt the snakes from either the air or the ground. Snakes are not in a good position to fend them off, and owls are one of the most formidable predators of any kind of snake.
There are four main species of owls that are known to be fond of eating snakes. These are the Great Horned owl, Eastern Screech Owl, the Burrowing Owls, and the Barred owl.
Do Owls Usually Eat Snakes?
Owls don’t usually eat snakes. However, they are opportunistic predators and may go after a snake if they think they can catch it. Owls eat snakes more often in environments where sneaks are readily available and the majority of the snakes are non-venomous.
Owls are carnivorous, and this is why they belong to Birds of Prey. However, they are not strictly snake eaters.
While owls eat meat, they are opportunistic hunters. They eat a wide variety of animals, including insects and small mammals. They also eat worms, crabs, fish, and reptiles. It is not unusual for an owl to eat rodents.
If there are bigger animals, then that is what they would hunt. A bigger prey means less energy for hunting. If the owl has chicks, then it would certainly hunt a snake to feed its young.
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Aren’t Snakes Dangerous for Owls?
Snakes can be dangerous for owls and other birds. Most of the time, snakes eat owl chicks or the owl’s eggs and not the adult owls.
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Since owls are one of the natural predators of snakes, snakes do not want to have anything to do with them. Snakes are opportunistic and will gladly eat chicks and eggs from an owl’s nest, but it’s rare for them to attack an adult owl.
Of course, this is just general behavior. There are occasions when food is scarce, and a snake will muster the courage to attack a nest even if the mother owl is there. Often, the snakes lose the battle.
Big constrictor snakes like pythons and anacondas are a different matter. Since they have the advantage of size, they can easily overpower an adult owl. All snakes are carnivores and would try to eat anything that they can fit in their mouths.
Do Owls Eat Venomous Snakes?
Yes, owls can eat venomous snakes. For example, owls have been known to hunt the copperhead, one of the most venomous snakes in North America.
The Great Horned Owl, or one, is an aggressive bird. It is a nighttime hunter and would strike from above. Its ferocity is what gave it the nickname “Tiger of the Night.”
Because of its powerful talon, the Great Horned Owl is not afraid of venomous snakes. It would hunt and eat rattlesnakes if given a chance.
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How Do Owls Hunt Snakes?
Owls hunt snakes from the air or from the ground, ambushing the snake and using its powerful talons to grab hold of it, rendering its bite useless.
1. From the Air
From flight, the owl would jump off its perch and fly towards its target.
Even if a snake can hear vibrations from the air, it simply does not have the speed to get away from an owl. An owl would snatch the prey from mid-air, and its talons would crush the snake’s head or neck.
Owls are well-known for being almost completely silent during flight.
When owls hunt, they hunt with stealthy silence. Their wings do not flap as much as other birds. As such, their land prey has no clue what is going on. The owl flies down and grips the unsuspecting prey, and it is over.
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2. From the Ground
On the ground, the owl would jump over a snake and capture it with its talons. Another method that an owl uses is a counter-attack. First, the owl would let the snake strike and miss, before the owl moves in for a counter.
From here, the owl would counter-attack and grip the snake’s head with its talons. Despite their massive sizes, owls have incredible reflexes. As a result, they can dodge a snake’s strike.
This method works because when a snake strikes, it typically hits the owl’s legs, which are covered in thick scales. Because of this, the snake can not deliver its venom as its fangs are not strong enough to penetrate the scales.
Once a snake fails in its strike, the owl takes its turn. If the owl succeeds in gripping the snake, the snake’s life is over. Owls are smart and would grip a snake’s neck, thus preventing the snake from striking forward or upward.
The owl could start eating the snake on the ground or take it to its nest. From there, the owl devours the snake alive. It has a powerful beak that can dissect the snake into manageable pieces.
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Do Owls Only Eat Snakes?
Although owls eat snakes occasionally, it is not their main diet. As carnivores, owls typically feed on small mammals like mice, voles, rats, and shrews.
Some other animals that owls eat include:
Like many birds of prey, owls eat mammals and all sorts of animals they can find in their habitat. What this means is that they also eat shrews, lemmings, small birds, lizards, cricket, caterpillars, and insects.
For fish, an owl would perch on a branch. Then, it would watch closely with its sharp eyes, and finally for the kill. In shallow waters, the owl would stand on the stream’s floor and wait for the fish to swim by. If the fish does this, the owl strikes with its beak and swallows the fish whole.
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Summary: Do Owls Eat Snakes?
Owls eat snakes, but snakes are not their main diet. There are species of owls that are fond of eating snakes, but this by no means makes them dedicated snake eaters.
Owls hunt snakes if they are available. The owls merely want to eat dinner, but they prefer to hunt bigger animals. If anything, owls will capture snakes for their young chicks or if there is little choice on the menu.
One of the most powerful owls is the Great Horned Owl. It has the size to take on bigger snakes. It also has powerful talons that allow it to crush a snake’s head. It is a formidable snake hunter that would not hesitate to eat a rattlesnake for dinner.
Stuart is the editor of Fauna Facts. He edits our writers’ work as well as contributing his own content. Stuart is passionate about sustainable farming and animal welfare and has written extensively on cows and geese for the site.