• Bird Academy
      Bird Academy
      Compare your thoughts from before this lesson to what you know now about owl diets. Do any of owls' prey items surprise you?
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    • Alicia
      Participant
      Chirps: 24
      Yes! I had no idea there were species of owls that specialize in eating fish.
    • Paul
      Participant
      Chirps: 1
      I was not really suprised at owl diets.  I volunteer for a raptor rescue organization.  When we release rehabbed owls we do it at specific times of day.  For instance, Screech Owls are released at dusk near businesses that have large parking lots with lots of lights and with a body of water nearby.  The parking lot lights attract lots of flying insects which the owls love.  We also release Barred Owls at dusk since they are night hunters.  Releasing them at dusk allows them to get familiar with their surroundings.  Our rule of thumb is owls with yellow eyes hunt for food at dawn and dusk (one yellow eye representing sunrise and the other representing sunset).  Owls with dark eyes, like the Barred Owl, hunt in the dark.  It isn't mentioned here specifically but a Barred Owl can hear a human heart beat from 20 feet away.  Pitty the poor menu item moving below that owl's perch. I did not know that Barn Owls are the most common owl across the globe.
    • Annie
      Participant
      Chirps: 1
      yes!! i did NOT know that owls eat opossums! so cool! i also did not know that so many owls ate insects. I hope one day to come and study ornithology at cornell! -Annie 12, Canada
    • benoit
      Participant
      Chirps: 2
      I was surprised to know that a the eagle Owl can catch and eat a Peregirne falcon
    • Loretta
      Participant
      Chirps: 5
      The owls' prey items in this section do not really surprise me. I have always known most eat small mammals, fish, insects, rabbits, rodents, etc. Even though I knew of amphibians and reptiles, the owls in my area mainly eat small mammals. I have even witnessed one trying to pick up my friend's dog. Luckily it missed and flew off. I did have another friend who had one pick her weenie dog up in their back yard, taking it pretty high up before dropping it. The talons did do some damage, but not as bad as it could have been.
    • Janet
      Participant
      Chirps: 1
      Cape Eagle Owl... eats... Yellow-spotted Rock Hyrax.  This owl lives in some countries in Africa.  I've never heard of the Rock Hyrax! Cross between a rabbit and a woodchuck.  And,... they make a sound that is more like a bird than a mammal!  Check them out.. they are cute..... https://kidadl.com/animal-facts/rock-hyrax-facts
    • Maria
      Participant
      Chirps: 2
      The fact that owls eat insects surprised me!   I guess some of the insects, specially in the tropical areas can be quite large.
    • Nancy
      Participant
      Chirps: 4
      WOW! I had no idea that Snowy Owls include ducks to their diet and some owls eat possums and squirrels. This course provides  in depth information that is fascinating.
    • Lynne
      Participant
      Chirps: 3
      I did not know much about owl diets and I am really surprised that some can eat prey that size of rabbits, cats and ducks! Astounds me that they can lift animals of that size.
    • Natalia
      Participant
      Chirps: 2
      I didn’t know snowy owls hunted waterfowl in the winter! No wonder they like to hang out where water meets ice.
    • Kathleen
      Participant
      Chirps: 57
      I was surprised to learn that small owls eat invertebrates such as moths, grasshoppers, scorpions. The owls must  be very adept at taking each one of these prey items. The relationship between each prey and predator is unique and interconnected within the environment. I did some research on my own concerning the Spotted owl, flying squirrels, false morels, and trees such as the Douglas Fir, The more I learn about owls, the more I want to learn about each owl's specific adaptation to its prey animals, not just in North America where I live but owls such as the Austalralasian Grass Owl, the Blakiston's fish owl, the Little Owl, Southern White Faced Owl and the Brown Fish Owl.
    • Heather
      Participant
      Chirps: 3
      The further information about the snowy owl hunting ducks and scoters on the open ocean at night really amazed me! Otherwise, I was not surprised by the all-of-the-above approach including crawfish, insects, voles, etc. with a bit of variation from owl species to owl species.
    • Krishnandu
      Participant
      Chirps: 2
      I am not at all surprised. As I had submitted before I had fostered a spotted owlet chick as it had fallen off from its nest due to storm. A good guy had walked up to me stating If I could help this chick. I fed the chick with fresh meat, guts etc but it would have it only on its own wish. Just the next day a pair of Spotted owlet residing on the old silver oak tree came on my window of the room where I had kept the chick and it started communicating with the chick. I walked in the courtyard and found there was again one of the owl at a hand distance and it looked straight at me it wasn't afraid of me despite day time it kept following me when ever I was out of the house. Rest of the time it would come on the window. It took me two days to realize. when the next day late afternoon  I returned home and found the same owl looking over me from the  window of my room which was open I took a decision to keep the chick in the courtyard near a tree. The moment I did one of the couple owl circled my head and sat beside the chick after communication it flew to a nearby by branch the chick hopped and branched towards it. In next minute the elder owl flew away in about 3-4 minute it brought a freshly hunted sparrow but the chick could not eat despite the owl kept tearing its chunk after a while sun went down and darkness fell the owl couple brought (probably) moths and night insects it kept feeding the chick till it was well fed. They Flew back to the Old Silver Oak tree. The next day I realized and witnessed . The couple had a chick of their own and yet it was adopted the chick and fed both the chicks equally. A sight I cherish to date.
      • Lynne
        Participant
        Chirps: 3
        Thank you for sharing that amazing experience!
      • Maria
        Participant
        Chirps: 2
        This is a deeply touching story and an amazing experience~
    • Alexandra
      Participant
      Chirps: 1
      I didn't know that owls eat insects or fish! It is fascinating how much you can learn about their diet based on the size and shape of the feet and talons. But it makes sense considering beaks can be used for other bird species and teeth shape for mammals (more generally).
    • David Ricardo
      Participant
      Chirps: 11
      He knew that owls have well-developed zygodactyl ears, eyes and claws, as well as quiet flight. What I have learned now is that owl claws have adapted to prey, strong and powerful claws capture large mammals and other large prey, small claws capture insects and small vertebrates, the claws bare with spicules capture fish. Owls have adapted to capture a variety of prey that have generated a variety of claws. I was surprised that some owls ate "fishes"DSCN7405 Short-eared Owl and your prey (an rodent) in the Sabana de Bogotá, Colombia
    • Peggy
      Participant
      Chirps: 6
      I didn't realize that owls eat fish or snails.  I thought that they mostly eat small rodents.
    • Carolyn
      Participant
      Chirps: 2
      I was surprised that some owls eat fish, and that they can eat so many different things.
    • Here is a prey item that might surprise you: leeches.  In this video from our Barred Owl Cam a leech is dealt with by a sibling. Blood-Sucking Leech Goes for Wild Ride in Barred Owl Nest Box 
      • Esteban
        Participant
        Chirps: 128
        Yes, I saw it and surprised me. A little disgusting to me(:
    • Kennedy
      Participant
      Chirps: 4
      I was not aware just how easy it is to learn an owl's diet just by observing their feet! It's baffiling how some of these owls have the precision to catch even the smallest of bugs and critters, and others the ability to catch prey almost as seemingly big as themselves! I wasn't all too surpised by the variety of their diet. From what I've read about, in some instances owls will feed even on roadkill. So they're definitely not picky eaters!
    • Johanna
      Participant
      Chirps: 7
      Wow I didn't know so many owls ate insects and smaller creatures!! I already knew Barred Owls ate things like frogs from watching the Barred Owl cam but I didn't expect insects even for the smaller ones.  The Powerful Owl must be really strong to carry a wallaby!! I have always wanted to go to Australia because they have so many unique animals. With the fish owls I would have thought they were hawks at first. Has anyone else read the article about those Barn Owls? It is really fascinating!!
    • Esteban
      Participant
      Chirps: 128
      I did not thought owls ate opossums. I once saw an opossum ( in real life) and it was huge. I did not knew it ate insects or snails. Moths are something I did not knew was in an owl´s diet. The scorpions and centipedes are venomous, but they eat it! I have learned a lot, and I am still finding an owl.
    • Dawn
      Participant
      Chirps: 1
      That was very eye opening to see the wide variety of prey that different owls eat.   Insects and owls did not go together in my old schema.
    • Karen
      Participant
      Chirps: 17
      I did not realize owls had such a diverse diet.  I was really surprised byt the fish eating owls.
    • Samantha
      Participant
      Chirps: 4
      Yes some of the things they eat surprises me.
    • David
      Participant
      Chirps: 1
      I didn’t know about the differences in the size of owl toes. It’s a little dicey to make the call, but it makes sense that the thinner toes are more useful to insect and small bird feeders. Also, when I look at toe orientation, it seems that when an owl extends a toe to the side, the effect is very “thumb” like, making the toe arrangement excellent for grasping.
    • ILMP
      Participant
      Chirps: 28
      well, i once saw an image of a great grey owl eating a fawn.
    • Tam
      Participant
      Chirps: 4
      • I did not know that the size of talons helped clue you in in what owls eat, however I did know that their range and habitat were clues and in other birds the beaks were also indicators.  The wallabies as prey to powerful owls would be the one suprise
    • I did not know there were several species of owls that specialize in eating fish. This is, to me, reminiscent of an Osprey as being the "fish specialist" of the diurnal birds of prey family. I also did not know that many owls eat insects!
    • Nancy
      Participant
      Chirps: 4
      I hadn't known how many owls eat insects.
    • Tim
      Participant
      Chirps: 2
      Question, when an owl bobs and weaves its head about is it listening, focusing its eyes or both?
    • Anne
      Participant
      Chirps: 2
      Thought they were all carnivores.
    • Ashlyn
      Participant
      Chirps: 5
      I didn't realize how many owls ate insects; I thought they all ate mainly small mammals.  I certainly wasn't aware that there are owls that eat primarily fish!  The variety among the different owl groups has truly been astounding me throughout this course.
    • Cathy
      Participant
      Chirps: 45
      I hadn't really thought that much about it before, but didn't realize that some ate insects, like beetles.  I was surprised and somewhat saddened that some eat other birds, but that is how it is with the food chain.  After another student pointed out that fish eat fish and mammals eat mammals (sometimes), I guess it's not that unusual. I was also surprised that some can hunt or be seen during the day.  I didn't know that and will pay more attention when out for hikes by the fields in the winter.  And learning about, and seeing, the beautiful fish-eating owls was surprising as well. I found this and the previous section very interesting; the pictures and video are amazing.
    • Paula
      Participant
      Chirps: 4
      I didn't know much about an Owl's diet - especially eating cats (wow) or how an Owl's feathers are associated with their silent flight or where there ears were located.   The variety of their diet was a surprise to me.  So amazing and interesting!!!!
    • Yvonne
      Participant
      Chirps: 3
      I was on a walk with some experienced birders a year or so ago and they were talking about the cat collars they have seen high up in trees. I was shocked that great horned owls can take cats like that. And wallabies?! Yikes!!!
    • Karrin
      Participant
      Chirps: 47
      It seems to me that owls are quite adaptable in terms of diet. I was surprised to learn that some (many) owls eat insects. If I owned a cat, I would be worried to let it outside after this lesson! I am wondering if we'll be learning about owl pellets during this course?
    • I saw, in one of the lessons, that a Great Horned Owl, can hunt, up to the size of a Cat. I would love to see a picture of a larger Owl species, in a fight with a Cat. Or even a Grouse. It seems the Owls, usually go after smaller vertebrates. But if there is a picture of a larger Owl, hunting a medium/small vertebrate, it must be awesome. OWL vs. CAT, or OWL vs. GROUSE.   It would have to be a larger/largest Owl. Great Horned Owl / Fish-Eagle-Hawk Owl.          ??   I did not know there was a Fish Owl, or a Hawk Owl, or an Eagle Owl. Kinda like the Osprey, to Eagles and Hawks. Same family, but a little different.
    • Kjersti
      Participant
      Chirps: 2
      I was surprised to learn that some owls eat moths, and how many owls eat insects.
    • Paulette
      Participant
      Chirps: 1
      I wasn't aware there were fishing owls or that an owl would eat a wallaby.  When I was a teacher, I gave my class of 30 7th graders the task of owl pellet dissection.  29 showed the usual voles/rodents and 1 was full of black feathers.  The kids were amazed!
    • I have personally seen Short-eared Owls hunting bats. So whatever they can catch will be fair game for food.
    • Gary
      Participant
      Chirps: 1
      Before this course I hadn't heard of fishing or fish owls. Ospreys and other fishing eagles were familiar, but not the fishing owls.
    • Amy
      Participant
      Chirps: 2
      I am definitely surprised that there are owls that specialize in eating moths and beetles! I knew about most of the other diets.
    • Chris
      Participant
      Chirps: 3
      Most of the owl's prey makes sense when you look at the owl because owls have features to help them hunt for their diet. For example, owls with strong and sharp talons would most likely hunt birds or small mammals. However, I found it surprising how a small owl could hunt another bird. This proves what amazing hunters owls are, and how skilled they are.
    • Linda
      Participant
      Chirps: 2
      I had no idea that owls ate insects, or that some ate cats.  That is why it is dangerous t leave your cat out also at night, besides other dangers. I also didn't know that some some owls are out in the daytime, as I have never seen one.  This is a very interesting course, and I am really enjoying it.
    • Matt
      Participant
      Chirps: 1
      I had no idea owls ate insects. I thought they all ate rodents.
    • Diana
      Participant
      Chirps: 4
      I had no idea the variety of talons and prey among owls.  This explains why the Great Horned Owls hang out in and around our yard at night, as our area also attracts opossum, cats, raccoons, etc.
    • Karen
      Participant
      Chirps: 2
      Great Horned Owls take house cats here in Alaska. Not safe to let house cats roam at night. I'm not really surprised, but I'm impressed that Snowy Owls can take ducks on the water, and the fishing owls are impressive too. Owls that can take monkeys are kind of intimidating!
      • Diana
        Participant
        Chirps: 4
        Same here in Southern California.
    • Emily
      Participant
      Chirps: 2
      I was most surprised to learn that owls that are similar in size can eat very different kinds of prey, and that you can tell what type of prey they eat by looking at their feet.
    • Nemo
      Participant
      Chirps: 6
      The wide range of the diet of the Great Horneds.  There is one chapter dedicated to the diet of this species in "The Owl Papers" by Jonathan Evan Maslow.  He quotes "the partial list of items in the Great Horned  Owl's diet"  by Dr. A. K. Fisher, "after dissecting some hundreds of owl stomaches, ...three species of rabbits, cotton rat, two species of pocket gofer, two species of wood rat, chipmunk, two species of grass hopper mice, white footed mouse, common rat, two species of ground squirrels, musk rat, fox squirrel, five species of meadow mice, house mouse, flying squirrel, common shrew, kangaroo rat, scorpions and crawfish." I also read the Great Horneds take down skunks..  How good is their sense of smell?? Another fascination point is the size of prey - I'm always amused by the optimistic and bold choice of prey of the pygmy owls - I read they take down prey larger than themselves (and sometimes lose...)
      • Karrin
        Participant
        Chirps: 47
        Wow! I am really impressed by how flexible owls are in terms of what they eat.
    • Fish owls surprise me, usually you would't think of an owl as a fish eating animal, but apparently they are! It also surprises me how some eat birds.
      • Patience
        Participant
        Chirps: 11
        That owls eat fish was the most surprising to me, too.
      • Doug
        Participant
        Chirps: 4

        @Patience

        • I was most surprised by the fact that some eat fish as well. I also did not know about the different foot types and that they did  no t have full binocular vision

    • The part about owls eating birds is sorta sad. But, animals do what they must to survive.
      • Doug
        Participant
        Chirps: 4
        Mammals eat mammals, fish eat fish, so it's really not unusual that birds would eat birds.
    • Julia
      Participant
      Chirps: 2
      I'm surprised owls can eat animals as large as wallabies! Does anyone know if owls ever eat snakes?
      • Julia
        Participant
        Chirps: 2
        I saw that this was answered in the next lesson - yes, they do!
    • rita
      Participant
      Chirps: 1
      I had no idea owls ate insects.
    • Tammy
      Participant
      Chirps: 3
      I found it fascinating about the different talons on the owls determine their diet. I didn’t know this. I assumed all owls eat rodents. I was amazed at the Eurasian Eagle owl’s talons.  I found out they can take down a small deer!  Truly amazing birds!  0CE61B60-15CF-4C62-8281-5F065EFFF03B
      • Nemo
        Participant
        Chirps: 6
        This photo really emphasizes the  unique talons of the Great Horned Owl.  Thank you Tammy.  I am also fascinated by their talons and how they align to grab preys!
    • It is very interesting to know more about the relationship between the structure of an owl’s feet (e.g., toe alignment, size of toes & talons) and its preferred foods.