Owls are carnivores, meaning they consume primarily animal meat. The phrase “bird of prey” refers to a bird that hunts, kills, and consumes other animals. All birds of prey, including owls, are carnivores.
What Does an Owl Consume?
Owls consume a wide range of creatures, from insects to small mammals. The species of owl, the environment, and the availability of food influence the daily diet of owls. Insects, worms, snails, crabs, and other invertebrates make up the majority of their food, along with fish, reptiles, amphibians, rodents, and even tiny birds. The larger the meal, the less time it takes an owl to hunt. However, when hungry, an owl will settle for smaller prey.
How an Owl Locates Prey
Owls are patient hunters that often look for food far from their nests and roosts. They have superior hearing and vision, which enables them to locate even the tiniest morsel in their habitats. Many owls hunt by sitting on a perch, such as a low tree branch or fence post, and waiting for the ideal moment to pounce and seize their prey with their talons. Some may fly over vast fields in search of food, while others hunt by running on the ground. Some animals even skim or wade through the water to find fish and other aquatic prey.
Once an owl catches its prey, it may not immediately consume it. Instead, it hides it elsewhere, such as a tree hole or behind a rock, and returns in a day or two to retrieve it. This is known as caching or building a cache. Otherwise, the owl immediately consumes its meal upon capture. Whether or whether an owl develops a cache depends on the availability of food in the region.
Unlike most other birds, owls cannot chew their food and need crops to aid with digestion. Instead, owls immediately digest their food. Any portions that cannot be digested are regurgitated as pellets. When an owl consumes a mouse, its pellet may contain fur, bones, and teeth. This process normally takes around 10 hours, after which the owl can resume eating.
Nutrition and Reproduction
Access to food can affect reproduction in owls. If a female owl judges there is insufficient food in a region, she will not breed. If there is insufficient nourishment, she will lay few eggs. If there is sufficient food to nourish her young, she will normally lay as many eggs as she can, up to 14 for certain species. Once the eggs hatch, male owls return to the nest with food. It is torn into little pieces and fed to the nestlings by the female.
Different Birds of Prey
There are other birds of prey in the wild besides owls. Eagles, falcons, hawks, osprey, and vultures are just some of the birds included in this group. Typically, birds of prey are split into two categories: Falconiformes and Strigiformes. The order Strigiformes includes owls.
Additional Fascinating Facts About Owls
There are around 150 species of owls, and they are found on every continent except Antarctica. Owls cannot move their eyes, but their necks can rotate approximately 135 degrees in any direction. Typically, the female owl is larger and more aggressive than the male, and the young owls are known as owlets. The earliest known owl fossils are approximately 58 million years old.