What Do Owls Eat?

Owls can be heard in the woods in the evening with their haunting calls, but they are rarely seen. Travelling in the woods through the daylight hours though can allow you to learn much about what an owl eats, if you have a keen eye. No matter how good your eyesight is, though, it will never match an owl’s, as they can see up to fifty times better than a human can. Here in this article you will learn about what owls eat, and how you can check out an owl’s diet that may live near you.


  • Owls will eat small rodents, fish, insects, and other birds. The size of the animal that becomes its food depends on the size of the owl. Barn owls, for instance, are predators of mice, while the larger great horned owl will kill and eat animals as large as a young fox. They are carnivorous and swallow their meals whole, tearing off pieces with their sharp beaks. Pieces that cannot be digested, such as fur, bones, teeth, and feathers, are stored in the gizzard. The strong muscles of the owl’s gizzard roll these bits into what are known as owl pellets. The owl will then throw these pellets up. They wind up under the owl’s nest or where it has been roosting. Naturalists can examine these pellets and tell what an owl has been eating. You can, too.


  • Owls can be found throughout the world with the exception of the cold wastelands of all of Antarctica, a few islands, and a large portion of Greenland. The lack of a sufficient source of food to eat keeps them from inhabiting these venues. In the United States there are many species of owls living in every habitat available, from mountains to deserts.

Time Frame

  • Most species of owls do their hunting for the food they eat at night. Some catch their food at dawn and dusk, while a few will actually be active during the daylight hours. While some owls will be permanent fixtures in the area they reside, others head south when the cold weather comes in winter.


  • Owls are able to capture the food that they eat by hunting. They possess incredible eyesight and a fine sense of hearing, enabling them to function in the dark. Their eyes do not move in their sockets, so they must swivel their heads to see in different directions, with some having the ability to rotate their head more than 270 degrees. Those owls that frequent the heavily forested areas of the world will stay on a low tree branch and then fly down and grab an animal with its sharp talons. They then break the neck of the victim and bring it back to its roost to eat it. Owls living in more open region will fly over the ground at a low altitude looking for a meal.

Expert Insight

  • The great horned owl is one of the few predators that will attack and kill a skunk for food. It has an almost nonexistent sense of smell, enabling it to withstand the repulsive odor. People will often wake up in the morning thinking a skunk has been in their yard and caused an awful stink, when, in truth, the smell has come from a skunk being killed by a great horned owl and carried over the homes to its roost.