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What Animals Eat Owls? 7 Predators (With Pictures)

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fox hunting bird/ owl

You would think that because they fly silently and sport powerful talons, have predators eating them for dinner. However, depending on the size of the owl, its habitat, and its species, there are a few predators that hunt this majestic creature.

Many people believe that since the owl is nocturnal, there aren’t many predators who are awake to hunt them. In this guide, we’ll discuss a few of the natural predators of the owl. You might be surprised at how many animals there are in the wild that are a threat to the owl’s life.

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The Top 7 Animals That Eat Owls:

1. Foxes

fox standing in snow

Image Credit: Alain Audet, Pixabay

Though most foxes prefer to hunt and eat smaller animals such as rodents like mice, rats, and the occasional squirrel, and even rabbits, if the opportunity presents itself, they’ll eat owls as well.

Whether the fox will hunt and kill an owl depends on a few things, such as the season and if the owls are even available to hunt. In most cases, the fox will hunt the owl during the spring and summer season, when the fox itself has young to care for.

Adult foxes rarely eat birds but will feed them to their cubs.


2. Prowling Cats

cat in hunting position

Image Credit: Karsten Paulick, Pixabay

Though even a will have a hard time taking down an owl, a prowling cat can easily run across a nest and kill eggs and young hatchlings. This mostly happens when the owl isn’t guarding the nest, which it can’t do all the time.

Bobcats especially will go after the eggs, but they must do it stealthily because a full-grown owl can easily take down a cat and kill it if its young are threatened.


3. Eagles

eagle soaring in the sky about to attack

Image Credit: 3493568, Pixabay

Adult owls aren’t often hunted, but big birds out there, such as the Eagle, can give the owl a run for its money. While owls are not on the Eagle’s prey list, the Eagle is on the owls. Owls have been known to attack Eagles on occasion.

Though the Eagle is quite a bit larger and stronger than the owl, they don’t bother them unless they are disturbed. Even with its being larger, the owl has the edge over the Eagle because owls have natural camouflage.

The biggest dispute between these birds is territorial, and each will attack when it comes to their nests. There are some owls that would be considered a fair match for the Eagle. However, in a fight to the death, they’d each have an equal chance of winning or losing the war. Most of the disputes between these two birds aren’t because of trying to eat the other; it’s usually territorial instead.


4. Hawks

red shouldered hawk screeching on tree

Image Credit: Nick-Bossenbroek, Shutterstock

Another bird that has no problem trying to take on an owl is the Hawk. Just like the owl, Hawks are at the top of the food chain and are birds of prey. Though most of their disputes are over territory, Hawks usually try not to attack owls if they can help it.

However, if a fight does ensue, they are pretty evenly matched. Hawks can prey on the smaller owls, however. Just like the Eagle, Hawks don’t usually attack owls to eat them. The fight is generally over nests and territory.

In fact, most birds will just find somewhere else to nest instead of fighting the owl because it’s such a strong bird, to begin with.


5. Other Owls

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Image Credit: Wild0ne, Pixabay

Owls are extremely territorial, even within their own species. Though they are seen as wise old owls that are majestic in folk tales, these birds can be dangerous to one another.

While the idea of eating your own species is terrifying to us, to the owls, it’s common practice. For example, the Great Horned Owl and the Snowy Owl are well known for killing and eating other owl species.

We’ll provide a list of a few of those species below.
  • Short-eared owls
  • Barred owls
  • Long-eared owls
  • Burrowing owls
  • Eastern screech owls

These are just a few, but you get the picture. These aren’t the only owl species that eat each other either. The Saw-whet owl and the Northern Hawk owl have been known to be cannibalistic as well.

However, even though this aggressive predator will attack and eat their own species, it’s usually not because they need the food, though food is a motivating factor for this bird. Most of the time, it’s a dispute over territory, as having too many owls live in one place depletes the food supply.


6. Bears

bear in forest

Image Credit: LTapsaH, Pixabay

Because you can find owls in almost every part of the world, it stands to reason that they will run across some formidable opponents. Bears happen to be one of those formidable predators. Of course, the swift, cunning movements of the owl keep them out of the reach of many predators, but that’s not always the case with the bear.

Of course, when the owl is attacked, he will defend his nest with everything he’s got. However, bears are strong as well, and it doesn’t always end well for the owl, and he becomes the bear’s dinner instead of chasing it away.


7. Humans

man hunting in the wild

Image Credit: jackmac34, Pixabay

While humans aren’t known for eating owls, humans are the most dangerous and lethal predators an owl can face on top of the natural predators above.

Humans are a threat to owls in many ways, including shooting the owls, building power lines, hitting the owl with cars, and environmental concerns. Things like barbed wire, buildings in their habitats, and mass noise pollution threaten the owl’s existence as well, and that’s all developed and built by humankind. Collison’s with windows are the number one killer of owls, as they can’t see the glass and collide with it at top speeds.

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How Do Owls Defend Themselves?

Now that we know the top seven predators that can harm owls and possibly eat them, you may be wondering how an owl defends himself from his natural predators. Read on below for a bit of an explanation.

The owl’s biggest line of defense is their razor-sharp claws and super strong beaks. The owl uses these to kill their prey and will use them to defend themselves and their nests as well.

Owls also have natural camouflage that makes it impossible for predators to see them until they are right up on the owl, and by then, it’s too late. Also, owls are very stealthy birds, which makes it easier for them to get away from predators.

There are times, however, that an owl will lose a fight against a stronger predator. It is estimated that 50% of owls die after only one year of leaving the nest. Whether it’s due to starvation from being unable to catch their prey or other causes, the majestic owl doesn’t always come out on top.

angry snowy owl

Image Credit: Lilly3012, Pixabay

Final Thoughts

This concludes our look at the predators that eat owls and some predators that don’t but are still a very real danger to this gorgeous bird. So, whether it’s a hawk or a human, a bear or a fox, there are predators out there, that though the owl is one of the strongest birds there is, can still take him down if the moment is right.


Featured Image Credit: Menno Schaefer, Shutterstock

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.

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