Yes, snakes eat owls, but only young owls, owl chicks, and owl eggs. Adult owls are snake predators, and most snakes would rather flee than risk becoming an owl’s breakfast.
Snakes, being obligate carnivores, do not have any bias against food. Therefore, snakes will eat any kind of food that they can fit in their mouths.
Why Do Snakes Eat Owls?
It’s rare for snakes to eat owls, but snakes need meat to survive and in times of food scarcity, snakes will make do with whatever is available to them, even if it means taking on a potentially dangerous owl.
Truth be told, it is rare for snakes to eat owls. If they do, they only attack the chicks. Typically, snakes are no match against adult owls.
The exception, however, is big snakes like pythons. But again, this is a rare occurrence.
The unfortunate owls are usually the chicks. Snakes approach them in their nest to attack. However, this hunting process is risky for the snake if the mother owl is around.
How Do Snakes Hunt Owls?
Many snakes are opportunistic and ambush predators. A snake hunting owl chicks would climb a tree and slowly slither towards the nest, where the defenseless chicks and eggs can be found.
Snakes will rarely attack an adult owl due to their dangerous talons, however, food scarcity may force the snake to take unwanted risks.
A constrictor captures its prey by wrapping its body around the chick. Then, the snake would start swallowing its prey alive.
Snakes can almost never capture owls on the ground. Owls usually nest on trees. However, the short-eared owls nest on the ground.
They make their nest in grasses and plants—a pretty accessible area for any snake. If this happens, snakes can easily hunt the owl’s eggs or chicks.
The short-eared owl lives in many places such as the tundra, coastal prairies, and marshes. All of these places, with the exception of a tundra, abound with snakes.
Since snakes are almost everywhere, no owl is safe in these environments. From woodlands to the Amazon rainforest, there are snakes lying in wait to attack baby birds, including owls.
Aren’t Owls Dangerous for Snakes?
Like snakes, owls are opportunistic hunters. Although owls may occasionally hunt snakes, owls tend to feed on small mammals instead. An adult owl is a formidable force for a snake to reckon with, as its sharp talons and beak can rip a snake to pieces.
When owls prey on snakes, they fly from where they are perched. Owls are patient predators. They have a great sense of hearing, and this helps them pinpoint the source of the movement in the surroundings.
Once an owl sees a snake, it flies down with silence. It snatches the snake by the head and takes it back to its nest. Once in the nest, the mother owl would start devouring the snake with its chicks.
Owls are not immune to a snake’s venom. However, like eagles, they have scaled feet that make the snake’s bite useless. Even if the snake manages to bite, its fangs could not penetrate the hard covering of the owl’s feet. As such, they could not deliver the venom.
They also have powerful talons. For example, the great horned owl’s talons can generate 500 pounds of force per square inch. This power is enough to crush a snake’s head or windpipe.
In a confrontation, owls also display powerful and quick reflexes. Even if the snake strikes, an owl can easily dodge it. What’s amazing is that the owl could easily counterattack with its talons.
If this happens, the owl captures that snake in its claws. After a successful counterattack, the snake is doomed and becomes a snack for the owl and its babies.
Read Also: Do Owls Eat Snakes?
Do Snakes Only Eat Owls?
Snakes eat many small mammals and birds, not only owls. Although owls tend not to be the main focus of a snake’s diet, snakes are opportunistic and occasionally prey on owl chicks and eggs.
When snakes eat birds, they pick on easy targets. Specifically, they eat birds that do not prey on snakes.
In captivity, it is not unusual for pet owners to feed chicks to snakes. In rural areas where there are farms, snakes would usually go to barns to eat chicks and chicken eggs.
In most cases, snakes would not eat an adult chicken. The reason behind that is the chicken size. A chicken is difficult to fit in a snake’s mouth.
In the wild, where there are big snakes and pythons, the snake would not hesitate to attack a big bird like an owl. In the most unfortunate of cases, some nests crash to the ground. If this happens, a snake that happens to be nearby would certainly grab a bite.
Snakes typically eat bird eggs. It is much easier this way. When a bird lays eggs, it is going to leave that nest to hunt for food. Eggs do not resist, and they do not make noise. After eating the eggs, the snake will regurgitate the shells.
Summary: Do Snakes Eat Owls?
Snakes eat owls, but only the small ones. In a face-to-face confrontation, a snake would almost never win against an owl. In many cases, it is the other way around. It is the owl that hunts snakes. Big snakes, however, may try their luck with an adult owl.
Snakes succeed in eating owls only when the owl is a chick. The snake would climb the tree and would be lucky if the mother owl was not there.
Some owls, like the short-eared owl, nest on the ground. It is this kind of nesting that makes the baby owls vulnerable.
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.