What do owls eat?
An owl’s diet can be very diverse, due to their ability to adapt to locally abundant food sources. Different species of owl hunt in different habitats, and have varied dietary requirements. Many will hunt in mature woodland, others lowland farmland and some upland moorland. One thing that remains the same for most owls, however, is the presence of small mammals like mice, voles and shrews in their diet.
Owls are secretive, elusive creatures – so how do we know what they eat?
Thanks to scientists, raptor study groups and naturalists, our understanding of these birds has developed considerably over time.
Prey remains are often found near owl nests or roost sites. Some species even make use of a larder and hoard their favourite foods!
The other, most common study of their diet is through analysis of pellets. Owl pellets consist of the parts of the prey that owls can’t digest, such as fur, bones, teeth and feathers. Analysis of these pellets allows us to identify what the owl has been eating.
There are five common owl species in the UK: the tawny owl, long-eared owl, barn owl, little owl and short-eared owl. Snowy and eagle owls also occur, but it's much rarer to spot them.