Barn owls, like other owl species, are excellent hunters. They possess superb hearing and eyesight that allows them to pinpoint the exact location of their prey in complete darkness. So, what do barn owls eat?
The diet of the barn owl primarily consists of rodents and other small mammals, such as bats and rabbits. They will occasionally eat birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish as well. Although, the latter are preyed upon more opportunistically rather than sought out.
Owls typically hunt smaller prey because they consume their meals whole, then regurgitate anything non-digestible in the form of a pellet. In this article, we will dive deeper into the diet and hunting specialties of the barn owl. Read on to discover more about these fascinating birds of prey!
A perched Barn Owl eating a mouse
Barn owls primarily eat small rodents, such as mice, rats, voles, moles, and lemmings. They also feed on other small mammals, including rabbits, bats, and shrews. Reptiles, amphibians, and fish are occasionally taken, but on a far less regular basis.
Because these owls are nocturnal, animals that are only active during the day (i.e. squirrels) generally do not fall prey to barn owls.
Along with mammals and the occasional fish, reptile, or amphibian, barn owls also consume small birds. Blackbirds, starlings, and meadowlarks are sometimes preyed upon by the barn owl.
Barn Owl in flight hunting for prey
How much a barn owl eats per day depends largely on its body weight. They typically consume at least 10% of their body weight every day. However, when food is plentiful, a barn owl may eat more than average.
Like other owl species, barn owls are superior hunters, possessing excellent hearing and eyesight. They use both of these senses to find food. A barn owl will either hunt from a perch or low flight. Serrated wing feathers allow the birds to glide silently over open ground, while their unparalleled hearing enables them to pinpoint prey in complete darkness.
Close up portrait of a perched Barn Owl
Barn owls are nocturnal. They primarily hunt and feed at night. On rare occasions, such as during winter when nighttime temperatures are too cold, barn owls will hunt during the day.
Barn owls primarily eat small mammals and birds throughout winter. Rodents, such as mice and voles, are less accessible during this season because they are often hibernating underground or beneath deep snow.
During the winter, Barn Owls often hunt during the day
The barn owl has a varied diet of small mammals, birds, and reptiles during spring and summer. They also occasionally eat amphibians, fish, and insects. However, rodents make up the largest percentage of the barn owl's summer diet.
Baby barn owls are carnivorous like their parents. They will eat whatever meal adults bring back to the nest. Small mammals make up the majority of their diets, but nestlings will also consume fish, birds, and insects.
Barn owl feeding their chick with a mouse
A barn owl’s natural diet consists primarily of rodents and other small mammals, which the birds can easily find in the wild. Feeding or baiting wild owls is not a good idea as it could prove detrimental to the bird.
Rodents such as mice and rats, particularly those bought at a pet store, have the potential to pass deadly parasites and pathogens to the owl. Rat poison is another potential hazard. If a barn owl consumes a rodent that has encountered poison, the owl will also be poisoned and likely die.
Habituating a barn owl to be comfortable around humans can also pose a great risk. If you live near busy roads, an owl is likely to get struck by a car while hunting. They may even eventually encounter a person who would harm them.
In the event you come across an injured owl, it is best to contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator.
Barn Owls do most of their hunting during the night
Barn owls rarely seek out water to drink. The birds get most of the hydration they need from the food they eat.
As previously discussed, baiting or feeding a barn owl poses several risks to the owl's health. However, if an owl naturally takes up residence in or near your yard, you may have a mutually beneficial relationship.
Owls are excellent hunters. They do not need to be provided food. If left to their natural hunting routines, the owls will help manage rodent populations on your property. Just be sure you never use rat poisoning, as this could also be detrimental to the owl or any other creature hunting the rodents.
As their name suggests, barn owls often nest in abandoned barns and other structures. They also use overhangs and cavities in trees or cliffs. The owls typically nest near open areas and forest edges for access to the best hunting.
If you live on the edge of a field or agricultural area and have some sort of abandoned structure on your property, you already have the right habitat to attract a barn owl. You can also provide a nest box mounted on a tall pole or tree. Finally, you will want to keep outdoor lighting to a minimum. Owls prefer to hunt in complete darkness.
Close up of a Barn owl in flight
Barn owls are carnivores. They exclusively eat other animals, including mammals, birds, reptiles, fish, amphibians, and insects.
On average, a barn owl will eat three to four mice in a night. They generally consume at least 10% of their body weight every day.
Feeding or baiting wild barn owls poses a great risk to the owl. The animals you provide may carry harmful pathogens or parasites or could have consumed poison. Habituating owls to humans is also dangerous as it could result in an owl approaching a person who may harm them.
Barn owls are nocturnal, meaning they are active at night. Daytime hunting only occurs on very seldom occasions. If you see an owl hunting during the day, do not be alarmed. It is not abnormal, owls simply prefer hunting at night.
Barn owls have a varied diet that primarily consists of small mammals, occasionally including cats. If you are concerned about a barn owl attacking your cat, it is best to keep it indoors at night.
Barn owl flying above the grass during a cold winter morning
Barn owls will eat snakes, however, they are not a regular part of the owl’s diet. These owls prefer preying on mammals but will catch and eat snakes when the opportunity arises.
Barn owls rarely eat chickens. Most poultry breeds are too large for a barn owl to kill and eat.
Barn owls will occasionally eat squirrels. However, squirrels are rarely preyed upon by these owls because they are diurnal, whereas owls are nocturnal - primarily active at night.
A Barn owl eating a mouse whilst perched in a tree in autumn
Rabbits are a fairly regular part of the barn owl diet. Although, rodents are consumed most frequently.
Barn owls regularly eat rats and other rodents, such as mice, voles, and lemmings.
Barn owls eat fish on rare occasions. They prefer rodents, other small mammals, or birds.
Barn owls regularly eat moles and other rodents, such as mice, voles, rats, and shrews.
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