Owls are predators that hunt rabbits, mice, rats, and other small rodents in the wild. Most of these birds are not friendly to people. So if humans find themselves in owls’ territory, they may pose a threat.
But do owls attack humans? Yes, owls attack humans sometimes. Most owls only attack when they feel threatened, such as when a person gets too close to their nest, chicks, or territory. If an owl attacks you, the best thing to do is cover your head and try to scare it away with noises.
Read on to learn more about why owls attack people, which are the most dangerous, and what to do if an owl attacks you.
Do Owls Attack Humans?
Owls are generally peaceful birds that don’t attack humans as long as they are left alone. So, you may wonder, in what circumstances will owls attack humans?
- When humans encroach on owl territory and make the birds feel threatened
- When humans get too close to their nests
- They also attack to protect their young ones
- Owls are more aggressive during mating and breeding season due to hormonal changes
Since owls are generally peaceful, they offer plenty of warning before attacking humans. For example, if you come close to an owl’s nest, it will hoot several times to warn you. After you fail to heed the warning, the bird will attack swiftly and silently.
More often than not, owls that attack humans are the younger ones. They attack humans after their parents stop caring for them and kick them out of the nest. Hence, during these attacks, the young owls are hungry and desperate.
Can An Owl Attack Its Owner?
Tame owls are harmless pets that offer no threat in most situations. However, they can sometimes get angry at their owner and display aggressive behavior that may seem like an attack.
For aspiring owl owners, US law prohibits having owls as pets. Instead, you must be properly trained before being allowed to keep one. The license you get after training allows you to keep the owl while it needs medical care but must release it when it recovers.
Do Owls Attack Humans At Night?
Yes, owls can attack humans at night, especially when they feel threatened. This is because most owls are nocturnal predators that hunt for food during nighttime. People will likely encounter these birds because they fly over roads and open fields while hunting.
However, owls generally don’t attack humans at night because humans are not prey. The only time an owl will attack you at night is when it feels threatened.
Some young owls can attack people at night as a part of their hunting practice. Like other predators, young owls must learn and get used to hunting. Hence, these youthful owls will occasionally attack an unsuspecting human who happens to be within their hunting territory.
What Does It Mean When An Owl Stares At You?
According to National Geographic, owls can’t roll their eyes when trying to look around. If the bird wants to look at something on the other side, it has to move its whole head around. Hence, sometimes you may think an owl is staring at you when it is simply too lazy to look elsewhere.
However, when you enter an owl’s territory, the bird will often watch your movements carefully to determine if you’re a threat. So, if you’re walking in known owl territory and realize an owl is staring at you, get ready for a possible attack.
Do Bats Attack Humans?
Do Owls Bite?
Yes, owls can bite. However, they generally attack with their sharp, powerful talons since they have small beaks. An owl’s talons can generate the same biting force as a dog’s. Hence, most owl attack wounds on humans are caused by the talons, not the beak.
Since these birds generally go for the head when attacking humans, their strong talons often cause a lot of damage. Bigger owls with giant talons can tear facial skin, causing severe damage and ultimately creating owl attack marks.
What Does It Mean If An Owl Attacks You?
Owls generally attack humans to protect themselves or their territory. However, depending on where you live, an owl attacking you can be interpreted in different ways, including;
In some places and cultures, owls are regarded as symbols of darkness and death because they are associated with the night. Hence, if an owl attacks you, that’s interpreted to mean that you’re about to experience some type of misfortune or evil.
Protecting its territory
When an owl attacks you, it often means you have encroached on its territory and threatened its safety. The bird will often hoot loudly as a warning before finally swooping in and attacking.
Sign of wisdom
Some cultures consider owls bringers of strength and wisdom. In these cultures, the act of an owl attacking you is interpreted to mean that you are about to receive wisdom.
What To Do If An Owl Attacks You?
If an owl attacks you, there are several things you can do, as shown below.
Cover your head
Owls usually go for the head when they attack humans, so it is wise to protect your head with anything you can find. You can use an umbrella, your jacket or even a handbag. Use your arms to cover your head if you don’t have any protective items.
Make a lot of noise
If you see an owl heading towards you, make a lot of noise. Be as loud and menacing as possible. This may scare the bird away and prevent an attack.
Wave your arms around
Another way to scare an attacking owl is by energetically waving and flailing your arms. You should also jump and move around as quickly and chaotically as possible to scare the bird away.
Use bright lights
If an owl attacks you at night, shine a bright light on it. Owls have big eyes and sharp eyesight, so shining a bright light directly at them will scare them off.
How To Prevent Owl Attacks
Owls are known to be swift when attacking, so you may not always be able to protect yourself in time. Hence, it is prudent to find ways to prevent the attacks before they occur. The best ways to avoid owl attacks include;
Be aware of your surroundings
Pay close attention to your environment, especially when you’re out in wooded areas. Listen for any hooting, and watch out for owls from the bushes looking at you. Move away from their vicinity if you spot any owls that seem threatening.
Sometimes an owl attacks swiftly, giving you little time to respond and protect yourself. Hence, when you go out to potential owl territory, ensure you wear adequate head protection.
Headgear that covers your head, like a simple hat, baseball cap, beanie, or even a bicycle helmet, is great protection. Carrying an umbrella also provides extra protection since it covers your whole head area.
Make your home owl-proof
Trim all the trees around your house and ensure there are no overgrown bushes. Install a scarecrow and globe mirrors to scare the owls away from your compound. Bright night lights are also great since owls hate blinding lights. You can also install a net to keep owls out.
Avoid owl territory
This is the easiest way to prevent unnecessary attacks since owls don’t become aggressive unless provoked. Avoid getting too close to owls and their nests since that counts as a provocation.
Another good way to avoid encroaching on owl territory is to avoid walking in wooded areas at night. Since owls are nocturnal, so they are most active at night. Hence, if you walk into a wooded area at night, you may unknowingly encroach into an owl’s territory.
Are Owls Dangerous? Statistics On Owl Attacks On Humans
Yes, owls are dangerous to humans, although they rarely attack. They have sharp talons that they use to hunt prey in the wild. These talons can penetrate deep into the skin or scalp, causing painful wounds.
When aggravated, owls often attack without any fear or consideration. In those circumstances, they attack small and big animals like humans that threaten their territory. This apparent fearlessness makes them highly dangerous to humans.
Owls are also dangerous by virtue of being wild. This is because wild animals behave in unpredictable ways, which means they can attack even when you think you’re safe. Because of this unpredictability, you must always be alert and careful when close to their nests or hunting grounds.
Despite being relatively dangerous, fatal owl attacks on humans are extremely rare. Owls and humans are active during different times of the day, making it hard for you to run into an owl. The birds also don’t like being near humans, so they migrate away from human settlements.
In 2015, residents of Purmerend City in Holland were advised to use umbrellas every time they walked outside. This advisory came after more than 15 owl attacks were reported within the city, creating widespread terror.
An article in MSN highlights that owl attacks are so common in some places that they put up signs to warn people about the birds. Audubon.org also highlights an old case that generated a lot of interest because people thought an owl killed a woman.
Statistically, although about 200 people are killed by animals in the US, none of those deaths is caused by owls. There are two cases of owl attacks reported in the US per year on average. However, sometimes the number rises dramatically especially when owls terrorize whole neighborhoods.
Which Species Of Owls Are The Most Dangerous?
Although all owl species are dangerous, the two most dangerous ones are the great horned owl and the barred owl.
Great horned owl
Great horned owls can grow to about two feet and have a four to five feet wingspan. Their big size and strength enable them to hunt for and carry prey larger than them.
Since the clutching force of its talons is as high as 500 psi, the great horned owl can cause serious damage to your face. Fortunately, these owls would rather hunt rabbits and small rodents than attack humans.
When attacking humans and larger animals, great horned owls target the head and face. This face targeting, combined with their talon strength, makes them extremely dangerous. To be safe from owl lacerations on head and face, avoid these birds’ territory altogether.
Barred owls are not as big as great horned owls since they only have wingspans of about two feet. An average adult barred owl weighs about 1.6 pounds and is 1.7 feet long. Despite this size, barred owl attacks are still dangerous since they target the face with sharp, strong talons.
Can An Owl Kill You?
Although an owl can cause serious harm to a person, it is highly unlikely that it will kill you. First, despite growing up to two feet in length, owls are still small enough for a human to fight and scare away easily. Hence, most people will easily fend off an attack before they get seriously injured.
Secondly, though talons are sharp and strong, they’re unlikely to break any bones or penetrate the skull. For instance, despite being a highly aggressive species, barred owl injuries on humans tend to be superficial and easily treated.
Here are some answers to common questions about owls.
Barn owls are some of the most harmless species of owls. They are typically found in attics, barns, and other human shelters where they hunt for and eat small rodents like mice and rats. Barn owls often issue warnings before attacking and will only attack humans if they feel extremely threatened.
Yes, owls can attack pets, especially cats and dogs. Big owls, like the great horned owls, sometimes view cats and small dog breeds like Chihuahuas as easy targets.
However, if the dog barks loudly and aggressively, an owl will back down and leave it alone. As for cats, they have excellent night vision that enables them to avoid attacks, especially at night.
You’re only likely to be attacked by an owl species in your area since different owl species live in different places. For example, great horned owls and barred owls are found in North America, while white-faced owls are only found in Africa.
Owls are dangerous, but they rarely attack humans. They only attack when you invade their territory, get too close to their nest, or threaten their hatchlings. Otherwise, they’re content staying away from humans.
If you get attacked by an owl, ensure you cover your head. Owls target the face and head, causing lacerations with their sharp, strong talons. You should also make lots of noise and gesticulate wildly to scare the bird away. To prevent home attacks, keep your backyard trimmed and well-lit.
I am broadly interested in how human activities influence the ability of wildlife to persist in the modified environments that we create.
Specifically, my research investigates how the configuration and composition of landscapes influence the movement and population dynamics of forest birds. Both natural and human-derived fragmenting of habitat can influence where birds settle, how they access the resources they need to survive and reproduce, and these factors in turn affect population demographics. Most recently, I have been studying the ability of individuals to move through and utilize forested areas which have been modified through timber harvest as they seek out resources for the breeding and postfledging phases. As well I am working in collaboration with Parks Canada scientists to examine in the influence of high density moose populations on forest bird communities in Gros Morne National Park. Many of my projects are conducted in collaboration or consultation with representatives of industry and government agencies, seeking to improve the management and sustainability of natural resource extraction.