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An Introduction to Owls

A Great Horned Owl in a Barn

Owls have adapted to nearly every ecosystem on the planet. They are quite specialized predators, having eyes and ears that are designed for hunting and unique feathers that enable them to fly almost silently.

Owls hunt throughout the night in deserted places such as cemeteries, run-down farms, and other open areas. The diet of many owls consists mainly of rodents and other small animals. Prey is usually eaten whole, but the whole prey is not digested. An owl's digestive tract compresses the undigested portions of the prey, such as fur and bone, into a compact pellet that the owl coughs up and expels through its mouth.

Instead of building nests, owls simply take over the abandoned nests of other birds. Barn Owls frequently inhabit structures such as barns, belfries, and deserted buildings. They also nest in the crevices of cliffs, inside of hollow trees, and inside of dense evergreen trees during cold weather.

Human encroachment on owl territories has led to the decline of owl populations in the wild. Many owl species cannot adapt to changes in their ecosystems caused by humans. As a result, the future of many owls, including the popular Barn Owl, is in doubt.

Pygmy Owls are threatened in their southwestern United States territories due to loss of habitat caused by growing towns and cities. Northern Spotted Owls have become threatened in the United States due to logging in the Northwest. Their long-term survival is questionable due to the loss of habitat and a low rate of successful reproduction.

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