Owls come in a range of sizes, from the smaller sized little owl all the way up to the largest owl in the world, the eagle owl. Because of this, owls, in general, have a varied diet that is made up of all sorts, but do rabbits make up part of their diets?
Almost all species of owls hunt rabbits as they are a good food source. Small and baby rabbits can be prey to the majority of owls (even both the screech and little owl), whilst larger owls like barn owls, barred owls, hawk owls and great horned owls will hunt adult and larger rabbits.
A Great Horned Owl flying off with a rabbit
Owls are opportunist hunters, which mean they predate on anything and everything available and, unfortunately for wild rabbits, include them and many other small rodents and large mammals.
They are also mostly nocturnal, which means they do most of their hunting during the night. Paired with their excellent eyesight, hearing, speed, precision and patience, it makes owls extremely successful predators.
Because of the range of size between different owl species, they are all capable of carrying different weights. The great horned owl is an example where they can carry up to four times their own body weight. This means they are more than capable of carrying the largest rabbits and hares. On average, wild rabbits weigh 4 pounds (1.8 kg) and hares around 9 pounds (4 kg).
A wild rabbit eating weeds
Owls will mainly hunt and catch rabbits when they're out in the open eating grass. They'll generally perch on a branch and wait patiently. When the rabbit is not alarmed, the owl will silently swoop down and attack the unfortunate unsuspecting rabbit with powerful and sharp talons. These talons are often used to kill the rabbit by crushing the head and tearing it apart when consuming.
Generally speaking, owls will consume their prey straight the way - unless when hunting for their young when they take it back to the nest.
Generally speaking, you don't need to worry about owls when it comes to your pet rabbit. To be extra careful, ensure your rabbit is kept in a hutch with a roof covering to help keep predators away.
It's extremely rare for owls to predate on domestic rabbits but can happen in extreme cases. Owls and other birds of prey that consume rabbits are mostly scared of humans, which means rural locations are the most likely for this to occur - again, in extreme circumstances.
Hutches offer the best form of protection for your pet rabbit, but installing security lights are also a good deterrent as well as noise - so if you did see an owl landing in your garden near your rabbit, making noise would scare them off as they are afraid of humans.
Owls will also consume hares as well as rabbits in a similar way. Baby and smaller hares will be again hunted by the smaller owls and larger owls will target the adult and larger hares.