Hunting and Prey

Amazing Hunting Skills

Wow! Gertrude the hunter!


Barn Owls are considered nocturnal because they hunt for their food at night however, when they need to feed their young, they can hunt during the time before dusk and at dawn. Although Barn Owls use their eyes for hunting, they primarily rely on sound. They have great eyesight which does help them see movement in extraordinarily little light, but they also have amazing hearing and can hunt even in complete darkness. As a matter of fact, they depend more on their hearing than they do on eyesight when it comes to hunting.

This is one of the unique benefits of their heart-shaped facial disk. It helps collect and direct sounds toward the owl’s inner ears. The openings of their ears are positioned inside their facial disk directly behind the eyes. The shape and location of the ears are different from each other, one higher than the other, which allows those sounds to be heard differently by each ear. This helps the owl pinpoint the exact location of the source of the sound. The Barn Owl has the most sensitive and precise hearing of any animal tested and are particularly good at detecting high frequency sounds.

The Barn Owls’ feathers are very soft which makes it possible to be very quiet while in flight. This all helps aid in their ability to hear even the tiny sounds made by their prey and allows them to approach undetected. Although their feathers are great for flying quietly, they are not very waterproof, so Barn Owls won’t usually do much hunting in the rain. When the feathers are wet, it increases the noise they make and reduces their efficiency to hunt.

Although they do not do a lot of hunting in the rain, we have observed that our Barn Owls will sit out in the rain for fairly long periods of time and not seem to be bothered by it! We haven’t seen anything about them drinking water on any of the research that we’ve made, but we have observed ours go down to our ducks watering bowl and drink at night. We believe that they get most of their water from the prey they eat but obviously, sometimes they like to drink as well.

Who Would Have Thought - Barn Owls Like Water


A Barn Owl will need to consume more food when they are very active and also during the winter months. The female also needs to consume more food as she’s preparing to get into breeding condition for egg laying. Barn Owls often eat their prey whole. If they are not able to, they will tear it into smaller chunks until they are able to swallow the rest whole. Typically, they will eat up to four prey sources a night. However, their bodies are not able to digest fur or bones, so those are regurgitated out into what’s known as a pellet. Interestingly, these pellets will end up being broken up for nesting material later.

Barn Owls are mostly known to hunt small mammals such as rats, mice, voles, and bunnies, but at times, they have even hunted birds, and in rare cases reptiles and frogs. We’ve even seen ours bring in a gopher but not often. The food supply is very important and is a factor in the amount of eggs laid and successful fledglings. This is also important if there is to be a second clutch.