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Hunting Styles of Owls

A Great Horned Owl in a Barn

Using their keen vision and hearing, most owls silently swoop down upon their unsuspecting prey and grab them with their talons. However, Flammulated Owls are one exception to this rule. These nocturnal owls, which feed almost exclusively on insects, use their bills to catch their prey in flight. Other owls pluck birds out of the air with their talons. Although owls do not dive into water after prey, they will skim its surface to snag fish or snakes. Some owls have even been observed standing on the shore of streams and plucking fish out of the water with their talons.

Owls such as Great Grey Owls, Boreal Owls, and Hawk Owls sometimes attack prey which has tunneled under snow. These owls use their keen hearing to locate their buried prey. If the owl misses its target, it may simply stomp around in the snow until the prey has been flushed out of hiding.

Great Horned Owls have a crude, but effective, method of flushing tree squirrels out of their nests. These owls slam into the side of the nests with enough force to send the terrified squirrels scurrying for better cover. However, at least one unlucky squirrel usually ends up in the clutches of the hungry owl.

Hunting patterns are often developed by owls when they observe their prey coming back to the same place time after time. Great Horned Owls have been observed making repeated raids on colonies of ducks that return to a specific area to nest. Barn Owls sometimes follow a methodical hunting schedule when prey is readily available. They hunt 3 times a day, with the first hunt at around sunset, the second hunt at around midnight, and the third hunt at around sunrise.

Great Horned Owls have been known to prey on domestic animals such as cats, small dogs, and fowl. Even domesticated birds as large as turkeys have fallen prey to the Great Horned Owl. These owls have also been known to torment farmers who have poorly designed chicken coops by somehow opening the coop and snatching the chickens inside while they sleep.