Owls may look cute, but it’s those big eyes that also make them skilful and dangerous predators, specially at night when they are the most active.
Do owls eat snakes?
Yes owls can eat snakes, although other prey usually makes up most of the owl diet, owls can and often do eat snakes. In fact, owls have a diverse and highly adaptable diet that allows them to hunt anything that moves, provided they are able to challenge it in terms of size. This versatile diet can include snakes on a regular basis for some owls.
The dedicated researchers at World of Owls highlight that the owl’s diet can conform to the prey that is available in their hunting environment, meaning that snakes on land and in water may both serve as viable owl-food. However, owl species and their likely habitats also impact their preferences in approaching snakes as prey. Let’s see which owls are more and less likely to eat snakes, and why that may be the case.
Do great horned owls eat snakes?
Great horned owls, or tiger owls, are impressively large and powerful birds that happily eat snakes as an established part of their diet, among other sizable and feisty prey.
Great horned owls inhabit the length of the Americas, from the Artic all the way to South America. This vast area incorporates every kind of habitat, which means there are many varieties of snake to prey on.
Great horned owls have been seen to take on strong snake species such as gopher snakes. If you are comfortable with witnessing the outcome of wildlife battles in nature, you might be interested in this Earth Touch News article about a great horned owl that tried to take on a gopher snake. It didn’t go so well for the owl in this case, but it shows that great horned owls are willing to take on a challenge and this one was probably just unlucky (Warning: This candid image of wildlife at work may distress some animal-lovers, so view at your own discretion).
Do snowy owls eat snakes?
Snowy owls are an example of owls that don’t eat snakes, most likely due to their habitat. Snowy owls live in tundra areas across Canada, Alaska, Euro Siberia, in regions where few snake species can survive.
Even on trips south during the winter, and those living permanently closer to the United States border, snowy owls do not appear interested in eating reptiles.
It seems that snowy owls have never developed a taste for snakes. Snowy owls prefer the prey found in their Arctic environment, such as lemmings, seals, fish, and even smaller birds.
Do barn owls eat snakes?
Barn owls are prone to eating snakes, particularly in certain environments. According to the Nature Mapping Foundation, barn owls are a particularly versatile and wide-ranging owl found across the world in many varied habitats.
There are different varieties of this owl located around the world, which shows that it is very capable of adapting to the opportunities of a given environment. Barn owls found in drier regions are more likely to eat reptiles.
For example, Australian masked owls are a variety of barn owl that is native to Australia and Southern New Guinea. For these owls, various types of native snake are common prey. Snakes and other reptiles are still not the number-one favourite food of these owls, but they are part of a varied diet.
Do barred owls eat snakes?
Barred owls, sometimes known as hoot owls, enjoy a varied diet that includes snakes. These owls live in wooded areas mainly in the eastern United States and southern Canada.
These owls are known to sometimes hunt by wading into water to catch fish and crayfish, which indicates that water snakes may be on the menu as much as those found on land. Barred owls also eat other woodland creatures such as squirrels, foxes, rabbits, and smaller critters.
Other Interesting Facts about owls hunting snakes
Do owls eat rattlesnakes? Birds in general are among the rattlesnake’s key predators, and owls have been known to eat them. This tends to be the case for younger rattlesnakes. Adults are a more intimidating prey and better able to defend themselves. Among owls, the rattlesnake’s most noted predator is the great horned owl, most likely due to the bird’s size and power.
How do owls kill snakes? Owls approach their pray silently, then kill their it swiftly and immediately. This method is carried out in the same way with snakes. The owl’s strategy may be contrasted with that of other birds, such as eagles and hawks, which may confront their prey or lift it into the air while alive.
Will owls keep snakes away? As we have seen, certain owls eat snakes as a part of their regular diet. These owls can keep snake numbers low. Not only will these owls potentially reduce numbers by eating them, but snakes may simply choose to stay away if they are likely to be harassed by an owl in the area.
Some wildlife experts, see benefit in using “Owl Scarecrows”, which are lifelike owl sculptures designed to frightened away invaders like snakes.
However, the buyer should be aware that these strategies may become less effective with time as snakes and other trespassers become used to the scarecrow and lose their fear. In such cases, it would be better to live near a real snake-eating owl!
Other ways owls interact with snakes.
In what other ways do owls interact with snakes? Owls may hunt snakes as food, but they also show awareness of snake behavior and interact with certain snakes in different ways.
Incredibly, screech owls have been found to bring tiny Texas blind snakes back to their nest and keep them there alive. The mini snakes eat insect larvae and help keep screech owl nests clean.
Burrowing owls, meanwhile, have been seen imitating rattlesnakes by hissing at predators when threatened. This fascinating behavior has been witnessed on numerous occasions.
Do all birds eat snakes, and what snakes do they eat?
Owls are not the only birds that eat snakes. Around the world, other birds have similar tendencies. This includes backyard birds such as crows and magpies.
Importantly, hawks and eagles are major predators. Some birds are specialized hunters, including varieties of snake eagles. These birds eat many different types of snake, including moderately-sized cobras. Raptors such as eagles and hawks have the advantage of lifting the snakes high into the air and battling their prey at a great height, where the snakes become helpless.
Kingfishers, including kookaburras, are well-documented snake eaters. They usually beat the snake against a tree to kill it, but they sometimes also eat them whole!
What other Animals eat Snakes?
Animals that hunt snakes include many diverse predators such as various felines (including bobcats and leopards), honey badgers, and mongooses. As discussed throughout this article, several types of birds are known snake-eaters. Perhaps surprisingly, a key predator of snakes is other snakes! The king cobra even earns its name with a diet mostly based on eating other snakes.
Birds of different sizes eat many varieties of snakes. The snakes that birds eat depend on their habitat. Birds generally choose their prey depending on its size.
For some owls, snakes can be a tasty snack depending on a variety of factors. However, while they are a common preference, they are not the primary food of any particular owl. Whether snakes exist in their environments or not, owls are keen hunters that will find the food they need and cleverly adapt to what is available.