Owl Habits - Understanding the Birds of the Night

On silent wings, Owls catch their food primarily at night.

The large eyes that face forward allow this bird to have binocular vision enabling it to judge distances between objects and maneuver through crowded environments.

The eyes of owls are immovably fixed in their sockets. Meaning, for the bird to follow moving objects it must turn its head.

Because they have long flexible necks, they can turn their heads 260 degrees.

barred owl on Ground

Barred Owl

The flight feathers of these birds are serrated at their tips, which has the effect of muffling the flapping sound of their wings during flight.

Few birds of this species hunt prey in full daylight, their hearing is particularly important.

The Barred-Owl (pictured above) is one you're most likely to hear and see during the day in its natural habitat.

Many have asymmetrical skulls, with ear openings at different levels. The right ear is positioned high on the head, while the left ear is low.

This allows sound to reach one ear before the other, enabling them to get a "fix" on the sound made by a prey animal.

In experiments performed in totally dark rooms where eyesight is useless, owls have caught mice on a leaf-littered floor with 100% accuracy.

Feeding Habits What Owls Eat

The types of food owls eat depend on the species of the owl. They do not eat seeds and berries.

Instead, Owls feed entirely on living animals with the size of the prey proportional to the size of the bird.

From small insects to mammals as large as hares. A Barn Owl for instance may eat mice, rats, and voles.

A Barred-Owl may also eat the same things as Barn Owls but will add snakes, salamanders, and frogs to its diet.

They may catch a bird at your feeder from time to time. Usually those birds that feed on the ground are at a greater risk.

The Great Horned Owl will take large prey such as crows, ospreys, and falcons.

Any food that is indigestible to these birds such as bones, hair, and feathers are compressed and regurgitated as compact pellets.

These pellets can aid in understanding what the birds eat by analyzing the contents within them.

Will Owls or Hawks Attack my Dog or Cat?

Possibly, but not so much for food. More likely, your dog or cat is getting too close to a nest site.

It's recommended to monitor any pets under 15 pounds while they're outside.

I've personally watched as a Barred-Owl swooped down and scratched a grown man. He accidentally stopped by a tree where a young owl was perched. He survived.

Like most other raptors, these birds have sharp talons for seizing and holding prey. Their hooked beak is designed for tearing meat.

Habits Where Do Owls Nest

The nesting habits of Owls vary considerably. Some nest in former Hawk and Crow nests. At the same time, others nest among rocks high on clifts.

Still, others are cavity nesters living in holes in trees built by woodpeckers and other bird species.

All Owls lay pure white eggs. These are laid over several days and incubation begins with the laying of the first egg.

It can take 28 - 35 days before the eggs hatch.

Depending on the species, as many as 14 eggs may be laid. The larger clutches happen when food is plentiful. Less food, fewer eggs laid.

The first eggs to hatch will have a better chance of survival than the latter.

Older nestlings will be able to compete for food over the younger and smaller birds in the nest.

If food is plentiful, all nestlings have a better chance of survival.

Nestlings have enormous appetites and can eat their weight in food in a single night.

Depending on Owl species and location, the breeding or mating season begins late winter to early spring. Only one nesting each year.

Some Owls Use Birdhouses

Several owl species can be attracted to man-made birdhouses. Screech Owls, Barn Owls, and Great Horned to name a few.

Since they don't build a nest but reuse cavities and nests of other birds, there isn't a list of nesting materials.

screech owl nestling looking out from birdhouse

Screech Owl Nestling Ready for Flight

If you supply a birdhouse for them, place a few cedar shavings in the bottom. The type used in pet bedding will work.

With the decline in natural habitat, many farmers have begun placing birdhouses on poles or the side of barns to attract nesting owls.

Online live nest cameras are used to stream the activity of Barn Owls, allowing internet users the opportunity to watch and learn in real-time.

One of our favorites is Star Ranch. While the Barn Owls are favorites, they provide other cams.

One of the more practical reasons for wanting to attract these birds is to control rodent populations. This minimizes the need for chemical poisons.

When Do Baby Owls Leave the Nest

Unlike a lot of other species, baby owls don't just fly out of the nest and begin their lives.

When they are about five weeks old, a nestling owl may venture to a branch where it will exercise its wings. The adults will continue to bring food.

Short flights will be taken over the next few days and by ten weeks of age, the young will be able to fly.

However, the adults will continue to provide food and teach them survival skills for several more months.

Where Do Owl Myths Come From

Locating these birds can be difficult since their movement during daylight is minimal. Their camouflage feathers help them blend in with their habitat.

All of this leads to myths and folklore about these birds. Some believe he is wise while others consider he represents doom.

The reality is, they are a species of bird. Like any other bird, you are free to attribute to them what you wish. They won't mind.

Either way, they are a valuable species for us and the planet we share.

Learn the Barred Owl Habits