Optics Mag is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Read more.

What Do Owls Eat? Everything You Need to Know!

Last Updated on

barn owl standing still

Owls are birds of prey, which means that they mostly eat prey animals. Therefore, their diet is almost completely made up of meat.

That said, owls do eat a variety of different animals. There are over 200 different species of owls, and each has its own diet. Some live off of mostly bugs, while others spend their lives fishing. Most owls are opportunistic, which means that they will eat just about anything smaller than them that they can catch.

Most owls spend the majority of their waking hours hunting. Often, they have to try a few times before they catch something.

What Is an Owl’s Favorite Food?

It depends on the exact species. Owls vary quite a bit. Some species only eat fish. Others are small and are limited to bugs.

Mice are stereotypical owl treats, but they are not caught by all species. Barn owls do eat mostly mice, though. Shrews and voles are also commonly eaten, so they may be considered favorite foods under certain circumstances.

Screech owls only eat insects for the most part, though.

Image Credit: Alexas_fotos, Pixabay

Do Owls Eat Fruit?

Sometimes, owls have been seen eating fruit. However, this is not common, and owls are still considered carnivorous. Only some species eat fruit, anyway, so it isn’t a common occurrence. For this reason, you shouldn’t try to feed fruit to an owl—they would prefer meat instead.

Fruit is often only explored as a food option when prey is depleted. Owls may be able to survive on a small amount of fruit for a while, but their bodies are built for meat.

For this reason, you don’t usually see owls eating fruit in the wild.

How Much Do Owls Eat in a Day?

The amount of food that an owl eats each day depends on the species. Large owls eat a large amount, while small owls eat less. For example, an adult barn owl needs to eat as many as three voles a day. One snowy owl may be able to eat up to 400 grams of lemmings a day, as they are often exposed to food less often than other owls. When food is available, they tend to gorge themselves.

owl catching a small chicken
Image Credit: Kurit afshen, Shutterstock

Do Owls Eat Dogs?

Yes. According to the International Owl Center, owls can eat some pets. Large owls are usually the only ones that you need to worry about, though. For instance, Great horned owls are often more than big enough to carry off small dogs.

However, owls are not great at catching dogs. Since they aren’t typical prey for owls, they usually don’t have much practice catching them. Often, owls will only turn to catching dogs when their other prey is not available.

Still, any pet outdoors could potentially become part of an owl’s dinner. Therefore, you shouldn’t leave small pets outside unattended. If your dog is smaller than 5 pounds, they may be in danger. Other predators can also be serious risks, such as bald eagles and hawks.

Do Owls Eat Squirrels?

Owls will often eat just about any small animal that they can catch, though this does depend on the size of the owl. Many owls will be unable to catch squirrels due to their small size. However, some large owls will be able to accomplish this without much of an issue.

Squirrels are often not a favorite owl food, though. They can be difficult to catch, and they spend most of their time in trees. Eating mice and similar animals is much more common.

Many owls only eat insects or fish, which would make squirrels unsuitable for these owl species.

Image Credit: Kurit afshen, Shutterstock

Do Owls Eat Bunnies?

Only large owls can eat bunnies, as these prey animals are quite large. Bunnies are heavy compared to owls. Great horned owls can easily eat bunnies, but many other owls are much too small.

In any case, bunnies aren’t the primary food source of any owl. They are too big and difficult to catch. Instead, mice and similar animals are much more common meals.

In Conclusion

For the most part, owls are obligate carnivores. In other words, they only eat the meat of prey animals. They spend much of their awake time eating or hunting.

What animals these birds eat will depend on their species. Most owls are specialized to eat one particular type of food, though some are more opportunistic than others. Certain species are fishers or primarily eat insects, though most simply eat whatever they can get their beaks on.

Small dogs can sometimes be the target of these birds, as can fruit. However, this is rare and typically only happens when other prey items have become scarce.

Featured Image Credit: iankelsall1, 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.