Do you have an owl pet and wondering if you can feed it with squirrel meat? Or are you having difficulty controlling squirrels in your garden and wondering if owls can help get rid of them? If yes, this guide is for you.
What do Owls Eat – What to Feed Owls – Owls Diet
Do owls eat squirrels? Yes, owls are natural predators of squirrels out in the wild. These birds are carnivorous and, depending on their species, they are known to hunt squirrels for food during the day and at night.
This guide discusses more details on which types of owls eat squirrels and other helpful information you need to know about the owls and squirrels relationship.
Do owls eat squirrels?
As we have just said above, owls are carnivorous, and squirrels are one of their foods. However, not all owls eat these rodents.
Owls sit higher on the food chain of birds and will hunt small mammals like squirrels, different kinds of insects, and birds for food. The fact that some squirrels, the tree squirrels, live in trees close to the owls makes them even more perfect small animals for the owls to hunt and eat.
That being said, not all of these birds eat squirrels. How big an owl is will determine whether it can eat these rodents or not. The larger bird the bird’s species is, the high chance it will eat squirrels. But the smaller ones will stick to smaller insects and various kinds of mammals.
Some of the large owls that eat squirrels include the barn owl, great horned owl, Ural owl, tawny owl, snow owl, barred owl (Strix varia), great gray owls, burrowing owl (inhabits North and South America), northern saw-whet owl, short-eared owls, and long-eared owls.
The different owls also have their preferred primary food. For instance, the barn owls eat flying and ground squirrels. The barn owl is also fond of voles in North America.
On the other hand, the boreal of the Boreal forest and northern spotted owls hunt the northern flying squirrels. The Northern pygmy owls and Northern Hawk owls eat the red squirrels, and so on.
But note that this list isn’t exhaustive, and there exist many other types of owls that eat squirrels.
In general, most of the owls known today will attempt to hunt squirrels if food gets scarce. Even the smaller owls will try to kill smaller young owls for food.
How does an owl kill a squirrel?
Owls are great hunters and opportunistic feeders, enabling them to hunt squirrels. They have an excellent sense of hearing and vision and are nocturnal—meaning they hunt at night. They can detect prey at all hours of day and night.
Note that most squirrels are active during the day or crepuscular (i.e., at dusk or twilight). Owls are nocturnal and mostly active at night, though sometimes you spot them flying at dawn or dusk.
With that said, the owls have the opportunity to hunt the squirrels in the evening or morning.
If you inspect their wing feathers closely, you’ll discover they ferry serrated edges. This gives them an advantage in enabling them to fly silently without arousing suspicion of their prey. Not only that, but they can also easily memorize the sounds of their different prey. And some can go as far as locating and killing squirrels hidden beneath vegetation.
The bird of prey spies a squirrel before they descend in a quiet flight and pounce on the rodent without being noticed. They then grab the squirrel and crush it using their keen talons. They then use their hawk-shaped beak to cut their kill apart for easy feasting.
How do owls eat squirrels?
Owls usually deploy different eating methods depending on their size of prey. When dealing with small prey, these birds of prey will simply swallow them as a whole. A perfect example is a snowy owl which eats lemmings and bank voles and other small mammals and game birds as a whole, head-first!
But in the case of larger mammals like the squirrel, owls prefer feeding on it one piece at a time. They start by pulling the rodent to pieces and then dismembering it (they have the tendency to discard the head and the feet first.
Still, some species of owls prefer decapitating their prey and crushing their bones before swallowing them.
Do owls eat dead squirrels?
Owls are not scavengers and mostly prefer hunting live prey. This is unlike scavengers such as vultures, crows, or ravens, which will feed on dead squirrels anytime.
In some rare cases, however, these birds of prey have been observed feeding on carrion, though experts have no better explanation for this. The Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS) researchers believe that the habit of owls feeding on dead animals is more common than ever before.
Max Allen, INHS ecologist, and his colleagues have documented instances of these predators scavenging not only in the United States but also in Europe. These findings showed that larger species of owls showed more scavenging behaviors. Examples include the Eurasian eagle owl, great horned owl, snowy owl, and other species that live in the forest
One explanation for this owl behavior that makes sense is food scarcity. When the birds can’t get live prey for food, the owls would eat the dead animals instead of starving to death.
Mike Ward, the INHS avian ecologist, also explains that the owls feed on the carcasses for quite a short time. And they rarely return. This is probably due to fears that a bird or animal larger than them will be in the area.
Will fake owl keep squirrels away?
As much as some folks love squirrels, they can be a nightmare for gardeners. They can chew electric wire and get to your garden, where they chew your plans and even dig up seeds. Or, if you’re into bird watching in your garden, they’ll go up to the bird feeders and take the birds’ share of seeds and nuts.
So can you use a fake owl to keep the squirrels away?
Absolutely! Placing an owl decoy in your garden will help scare away rodents since they’re generally afraid of their natural predators, including the owls. This is a great method if you want to scare the squirrels without hurting or injuring them.
The added benefit of hanging an owl decoy in your garden is that owls scare the pest birds away, helping you keep buds from besting or feeding in your garden.
However, you need to take a few things into consideration. For instance, you should only use a decoy that’s as realistic as possible. Look for a large one with reflective glass eyes so that it easily scares the squirrels’ attention and makes them run away.
Place the decoy in the natural places where owls usually rest. Perch it higher over the area where squirrels frequent in your garden, say on tree branches, roofing, or outbuildings.
If you have a large yard, consider placing more than one owl decoy (2 or more will do) to help you efficiently scare away the rodents
You’ll also need to move the decoy regularly to ensure the squirrels don’t get used to its presence and discover it doesn’t pose any threat to them. Alternatively, you can take it down for a few days and then replace it.
Absolutely! Owls are opportunistic hunters and will attack squirrels whenever they spot them. Since squirrels are one of their favorite kills, it makes sense that owls will attack the rodents on sight!
Barred owls eat squirrels. This owl species is known to stick to feeding on small species like rats and squirrels. They love feeding on various squirrel species, including tree squirrels, flying squirrels, pine squirrels, and more.
Yes, squirrels are afraid of owls since they’re their natural predators. Generally, these small animals are afraid of any animal that’s larger than them and has the tools to cause harm to them. And owls fully meet these criteria, making them a threat. This is why many homeowners use realistic decoys to get rid of these pesky creatures from their gardens.
Yes, baby owls eat squirrels. This is because the owlets normally consume the same diet as their parents. But keep in mind that the hatchlings can only eat food regurgitated by their parents or small food types owing to their young age. With time, however, they can also swallow smaller squirrel pieces or any other prey.
Owls are generally prey birds, and opportunistic predators, and squirrels make one of their favorite foods. Some species of owls will feed on squirrels, though any owl will hunt for these rodents when food is scarce.
Squirrels are also generally afraid of owls as their opportunistic predators. A realistic decoy alone will easily scare them away, making it an effective way to deter them from your farm.
Whether you’re a pet owner or a gardener having difficulty controlling squirrels, we hope this guide has given you helpful information about these little furry critters and how they relate to the owls.
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.