Owls are the birds of prey and as such they have a varied diet. From birds to reptiles, amphibians to large insects, owls will consume almost every living organism.
What Do Owls Eat
Owls that belong to the order strigiformes are more apt to consume different types of prey. While almost all owls hunt and eat live animals there are some which typically feed on carrion. They also eat invertebrates. There are around seventy five species of Otus out of which forty are specialized in eating insects.
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They don’t seem to like amphibians in their diet but fishing owls and fish-owls are known to prey on frogs. Some species are fond of eating snakes and lizards. Voles and lemmings make much of owl’s diet so much so that some species are completely reliant on them.
Unlike typical owls Glaucidium are always keen to eat birds. Large and medium-sized owls prey on small mammals such as shrews and rodents. Eagle-owls in the northern latitudes are extremely fond of eating medium-sized mammals including rabbits, hares, skunks, and sometimes monkeys.
Barn owls are known to consume many vertebrates and invertebrates including small mammals. Their diet is composed of reptiles, birds, large insects, and amphibians. Barn owls also prey on small marsupials. They listen to the series of perches rather closely and in the open regions barn owls hover around or watch aerially. They will seize the prey with their powerful claws and then kill it with a strong bite on prey’s neck. However if the prey is small the owl will swallow it whole.
While roosting and feeding on prey barn owls leave all the pellets of feathers and other bones.
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Barn owls are known to detect prey by sound and because of which they are able to hunt even in extreme darkness. Owls can also pick up the direction of hearing by pinpointing the sound source. They can feel the movement of small mammals by listening to its squeaking within 1 – 2o C in the vertical and horizontal planes.
Owls have a facial disc face which seems more like a parabolic dish. This dish allows the bird to amplify and focus sounds coming from different directions.
Owls living in the Mediterranean region are known to consume mice and rats, while those in Cape Verde Islands feed often prey on geckos. They also supplement their diet with turnstones, plovers, weavers, and godwits.
Burrowing owls are sit-and-wait predators. When the prey is in range the owl goes after it to catch it during flight. At times they are also seen chasing prey on the ground. Almost two-thirds of burrowing owl’s diet is composed of small vertebrates and invertebrates.
They are also known to consume small rodents and amphibians such as frogs and toads. Lizard includes tropical se gecko (Hemidactylus mabouia). Burrowing owls also devour a prey as large as its own size such as eared doves (Zenaida auriculata).
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Burrowing owls are not very selective feeders as when it comes to invertebrates. They are very keen to feed on termites or Orthoptera including Copiphorinae true crickets (Gryllidae), katydids, and Jerusalem crickets (Stenopelmatidae). They supplement their diet with small ground beetles.
The snowy owl is known to consume small rodents and lemmings especially during the breeding season. The diet includes small as well as large mammals. Small mammals include deer mice and meadow voles.
Large mammals such as rabbits, prairie dogs, rabbits, moles, marmots, hares, squirrels, muskrats, and raccoons form the essential part of snowy’ owl’s diet.
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Snowy owls also prey on large birds such as ducks, pheasants, gulls, shorebirds, songbirds, coots, geese, grouse, and grebes.
The snowy owl eats 1,600 lemmings each year.
Great Horned Owl
Great horned owl feeds on almost every living animals; from insects to the medium-sized mammals. They are most likely to feed on mammals. Their diet is composed of 88% mammals, 6% birds, and 4 – 5% insects. Reptiles and amphibians form only the small portion of owl’s diet.
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The great horned owl consumes jackrabbits, shrews, snowshoe hare, North American deermouse, vole, prairie, meadow, white-footed mouse, and eastern cottontail.