Do Owls Eat Snakes



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In the world of owls and snakes, one question often arises: do owls eat snakes? The answer is not a simple yes or no. Owls are known to be opportunistic hunters, meaning they will eat whatever they come across. While snakes do make up a part of some owl’s diets, not all owls eat them exclusively. Owls have incredible eyesight and can spot a snake from afar, swooping down to grab it with their powerful talons. However, they are more likely to catch a snake that is out in the open rather than hiding up in a tree. There are even some smaller owl species, such as the barn owl and burrowing owl, that will eat snakes when the opportunity presents itself. So, while owls may not feast on snakes every day, they certainly won’t turn one down if it’s on the menu.

Do Owls Eat Snakes?

If you’ve ever wondered whether owls eat snakes, the answer is a resounding yes! Owls are carnivorous creatures that primarily feed on smaller animals like insects, mice, shrews, lizards, and even some birds. However, they are also opportunistic hunters and will eat whatever they come across, including snakes. While not all owl species rely heavily on snakes as a food source, these slithering creatures do make up a part of some owls’ diets.

How Do Owls Attack Snakes?

Owls have exceptional eyesight, which allows them to spot animals from far distances and in various lighting conditions. Their large eyes enable them to see even in low light, making them incredibly efficient hunters. When it comes to attacking snakes, owls usually swoop down on their prey and snatch them with their sharp claws. However, owls can only catch snakes when they are in at least a slightly open space. Snakes that camouflage themselves in trees are generally safe from an owl’s attack. Owls commonly target snakes that are out in the open, such as those found on grassy areas or even on bodies of water. Snakes that bask in the sun are particularly vulnerable to owl attacks due to their visibility.

5 Examples of Owls That Eat Snakes

While larger owl species might come to mind when thinking about snakes as prey, there are also smaller owls that have been known to take down these slithery creatures. Here are five examples of owls that eat snakes:

  1. Barn Owl: Barn owls are opportunistic eaters and primarily feed on smaller animals like rodents, lizards, smaller birds, and frogs. While snakes are not their main source of food, barn owls will eat them if they come across one and are feeling particularly hungry. The likelihood of barn owls eating snakes also depends on where the snake is found.

  2. Burrowing Owl: The burrowing owl is an exceptional species known for spending most of its time on the ground. Unlike other owls that swoop down on their prey, burrowing owls often find snakes while on the ground. Due to their small size, they typically go for smaller snakes.

  3. Barred Owl: Barred owls are medium-sized birds that have a varied diet, which includes snakes. They employ a swooping-down technique to catch their snake prey, entangling them in their sharp claws.

  4. Great Horned Owl: Great horned owls are large and formidable predators that have the ability to catch and consume mice, snakes, and other animals. They can even handle bigger snakes due to their size and strength.

  5. Pel’s Fishing Owl: As the name suggests, Pel’s fishing owl primarily feeds on fish. However, occasionally, they may also swoop down and capture water snakes they encounter while on the hunt.

What Happens If an Owl Doesn’t Kill the Snake?

While owls are skilled hunters, snakes can pose a potential threat to them. Snakes have the ability to strike an owl with venom or constrict them, making them formidable adversaries. However, owls typically attack snakes quickly and from above, making it unlikely for the snake to retaliate. In the event that an owl goes for a larger snake and cannot easily fly away, they may end up wrestling with it on the ground. The snake may bite the owl or attempt to constrict it as a means of self-defense.

If an owl brings a live snake to its nest without killing it, the snake can pose a danger to the owl’s eggs or chicks. In some cases, owls intentionally bring live snakes to their nests because they are aware of the snake’s ability to keep other pests in check. For example, Eastern screech owls have been observed carrying blind, worm-like snakes into their nests. These snakes burrow into the bottom of the nest and feed on insect larvae, preventing them from becoming parasites that could harm the owl’s eggs and chicks.


In conclusion, owls do eat snakes, although not all species rely heavily on them as a food source. Owls are opportunistic hunters and will eat whatever they find, including snakes, if the opportunity arises. Their excellent eyesight allows them to spot and capture snakes, primarily by swooping down on them and grabbing them with their sharp talons. Snakes can pose a potential threat to owls, but owls are usually able to overcome and consume them. So, if you come across an owl hunting, don’t be surprised if you see it enjoying a nice snake meal!

Categories: Birds of Prey, What To Put in a Birdhouse (and What Not To), Hummingbirds in Arkansas (Common & Rare)

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