Owls are one of the most common bird species in the world. They are also some of the most preyed-upon birds due to their large eyes and no natural defenses. But what are owl predators? And what kind of animals prey on owls? Because owls are nocturnal, their predators can be around at all hours of the day or night. Here are the eight top threats to the owl population.
The Top 8 Predators of Owls
Foxes are among the world’s most intelligent predators. They use their keen sense of smell to track down prey such as rodents, rabbits, squirrels, and even small birds. But, what makes them different from other predatory animals is their ability to adapt to changing weather conditions. The foxes hunt and kill owls depending on the season, habitat, and availability. In some parts of the world, foxes hunt and kill owl species like barn owls, tawny owls, long-eared owls, short-eared owls, snowy owls, etc.
In areas where there is plenty of food, foxes tend to prefer hunting larger prey. On the other hand, when resources are scarce, foxes will go for smaller prey. For example, in the winter, foxes mainly target ground-dwelling mammals such as mice, voles, shrews, moles, etc. These medium-sized, bush hairy tail dogs mostly carry out their hunts on owls during the spring and summer. When caring for their young, foxes will take advantage of unguarded nest sites to steal eggs and hatchlings.
Snakes are another predator that hunts owls. Snakes prey upon many different animals, including birds, mammals, amphibians, reptiles, fish, invertebrates, and even insects. They use their venomous fangs to inject toxins into their victims, paralyzing or killing them instantly. Snakes hunt by stalking their prey, which is why they can be deadly when attacking prey. Owls, being nocturnal creatures, are a prime target for snakes because they have weak eyesight and limited defenses.
Some of the most common owl predators include boas (Boa constrictor), king cobras (Ophiophagus), kraits (Bungarus), and mambas (Dendroaspis). These snakes have venomous fangs and kill their prey by injecting them with venom.
One of the world’s most iconic predators, the wolf, is also known to hunt and kill owls. Wolves live in packs that can include anywhere from one to thirty individuals. These animals use their keen senses of smell and sight to track down prey, including owls. When hunting small prey like rabbits or hares, wolves will take them apart piece by piece using their strong jaws and sharp teeth. However, when it comes time for an owl hunting expedition, there is only one triumphant outcome-the death of the owl.
Hawks are one of the most successful bird predators around. They hunt almost exclusively at night, and they prefer small birds like owls and woodpeckers. Hawks mostly go after weak, old, and sick owls or owlets; however, they do take down healthy young owls occasionally. The reason why hawks attack owls is that they are easier prey. Owls don’t usually fly away immediately and often sit still, making it easy for hawks to swoop in and grab them. This is especially true for fledgling owls since they’re too inexperienced to know how to escape. On average, a hawk will eat about half an owl’s body weight daily.
Wildcats are among the best predators of owls. They hunt adults and young owls, eating up to 80% of the prey population. Owls do not defend themselves against attacks; however, they often use loud calls to warn others about the danger. The short-eared owl is one of the few species of birds that breed in North America. Their nests are usually on the ground, making it easier for wildcats to reach them. Short-eared owls lay 2–4 eggs per clutch; both parents take care of the offspring, feeding them while guarding them against potential threats.
Eagles, born out of territory disputes, are known to attack birds of prey such as hawks, falcons, eagles, vultures, and owls. They are among the most potent predators and are often referred to as “high-order raptors.” These birds are typically found in open habitats, where they hunt large mammals like deer and wildebeest. As high-order raptors, they prey on big animals. However, owls’ eggs provide some of the best nutrition for eagle chicks. Owls lay up to five clutches of eggs per season. Each clutch contains anywhere from one to seven eggs. When the young hatch, they’re called fledglings. Fledglings are vulnerable to predation while still inside their shells.
The first thing we want to point out about bears is that they do not actually “eat” owls. Bears will knock over tree trunks looking for food and then decide to snack on whatever they find. Bears are not typically predators of owls, but they may attack if they’re desperate. But on the other hand, owls can defend themselves against bears by screeching and diving into their dens.
Owls are beautiful creatures and play an essential role in the ecosystem. However, they are the prey of the most giant owl predator of them all – us humans. Owls are preyed on by many different animals, but human is the biggest threat to their survival. Humans hunt, trap, and kill owls for their meat, feathers, and nails. Human activity has decreased the owl population in many parts of the world.
If you see an owl, please take photographs or vigilantly monitor its whereabouts so it can return home unharmed. Do not try to scare it away – that can only result in harm to the owl and potentially to you as well. When encountering an owl in nature, always stay calm and give it a chance to fly away safely. And if you must feed it, please do so sparingly and from a distance. One easy way to reduce the risk of being an owl predator is to avoid making loud noises or feeding them scraps from our dinner.