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Do Owls Eat Bats? Your Questions Answered!

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single bat hanging from rafters

Bats only have a few natural predators, one of which being owls. Predatory birds like owls sometimes eat bats, but bats are not their main diet. In fact, bats more commonly die from diseases than owls and other predatory animals.

Still, there is a lot more to the story about whether owls eat bats. If you are interested in learning more about when bats are eaten by owls and other animals, keep reading.

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Do Owls Eat Bats? Answered

Image Credit: Agami Photo Agency, Shutterstock

Owls are predatory birds that will eat a variety of meat and insects. Occasionally, owls will eat bats. Although it is not particularly common for owls to eat bats, it isn’t unheard of, and they aren’t the only type of bird to eat bats on occasion.

What Type of Owls Eat Bats?

It’s important to note that not all owls eat bats. The main owls that eat bats include Great Horned Owls, Long Eared Owls, Barn Owls, Tawny Owls, and Barred Owls. These owls are known for being much more predatory and open to eating a variety of animals than other species, which is why they will sometimes eat bats too.

Of these types, the owl most likely to eat bats is the Great Horned Owl. These owls are considered the most ferocious owls. Some are even known for going after domestic cats and other large species. Great Horned Owls are even intelligent enough that they know to store meat in frozen weather to have food after the meat thaws.

What Else Do Owls Eat?

two bats hanging upside down from tree
Image Credit: Salmar, Pixabay

Most owls prefer a diet of small mammals, such as rodents. Though voles and mice are on the top of an owl’s menu, the predatory birds also eat frogs, snakes and lizards, fish, squirrels, and other small animals. Only occasionally do owls eat skunks, bats, and other meat sources.

Here is a complete list of the types of food owls will eat:
  • Invertebrates
  • Small mammals
  • Fish
  • Reptiles
  • Small birds

Remember that not all owls will eat the same diet. Each owl species has a different preferred diet based on their size, body, and location. For example, small owls prefer invertebrates like earthworms and insects, whereas large predatory owls, such as the Great Horned Owl, prefer small mammals.

What Animals Kill Bats in Addition to Owls?

Image credit: Laurie E Wilson, Shutterstock

Owls are not the only animal to kill bats. Many other predatory birds will kill bats in midflight, and they usually kill bats more often than owls. For example, many hawks are able to capture bats in flight easier than owls since they are faster.

Some ground animals kill bats too, but they eat them less often simply since bats are often in flight. Fisher cats, raccoons, minks, and weasels will sometimes get ahold of bats whenever they’re roosting. Even domestic cats have been known to eat a bat that lands on the ground.

Other Threats to Bats

Even though quite a few animals will eat bats, predatory animals are far from being the biggest threat to bats. The biggest threat to bats is different diseases that attack the bat while in hibernation. The most common is white nose syndrome.

White nose syndrome is a fungal growth that affects the bat’s nose and wings. This fungus causes a white fuzzy substance to cover the bat during hibernation, hence its name. It primarily only affects bats that are hibernating.

This syndrome is deadly to bats because it warms up the bat’s body temperature, which causes it to wake up during hibernation. As a result, the victim of white nose syndrome ends up using all of its fat reserves before hibernation is over, causing them to starve and die before springtime.

White nose syndrome is so powerful that bats affected use up their energy reserves twice as fast as healthy bats. Unfortunately, the syndrome spreads easily and ends up wiping out entire colonies. To date, it is estimated that 6.7 million bats in North America have died from white nose syndrome.

Is White Nose Syndrome Dangerous to Humans?

To date, there have been no studies to support white nose syndrome being dangerous to humans. Not to mention, the fungus that causes the syndrome is frequently found in very cold, dark, and damp environments, which are not the type of environments most humans live in.

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To answer the main question of this article, owls can and will eat bats, but not as often as you would think. Owls prefer invertebrates and small mammals on the ground, though larger predatory owls are more likely than other species to eat bats. As a result, Great Horned Owls are the most likely to eat bats.

Still, the biggest threat facing bats is not owls or other predatory animals. It’s white nose syndrome. Scientists are trying to find ways to combat white nose syndrome in bats, but the epidemic shows no signs of slowing any time soon.

If you are interested in helping bats, you can join the Bat Advocate network. By joining this network, you can use your voice to let Congress know that this is a serious problem that needs to be fixed.

Featured Image Credit: jochemy, Pixabay

About the Author Robert Sparks

Robert’s obsession with all things optical started early in life, when his optician father would bring home prototypes for Robert to play with. Nowadays, Robert is dedicated to helping others find the right optics for their needs. His hobbies include astronomy, astrophysics, and model building. Originally from Newark, NJ, he resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the nighttime skies are filled with glittering stars.