How do owls hunt at night?

How do owls hunt at night

Owls have been majorly categorised as the most solitary and nocturnal species of birds ever. Being also a bird of prey, there exists over 200 different variations of owls. The most distinctive and unique aspect in the identity of an owl is its broad disk-like face, which has the ability to rotate at about 270 degrees.

Owls being specifically nocturnal, thus hunt in the dark by using their supersensitive ears that can hear even the faintest rustling sounds made by animals, even if the prey is at a considerable distance. Having the ability of binocular vision, the owl can focus its eyes to a large distance, and still be able to perceive its feed accurately.


Silent Wings

The soft, fluffy-edged feathers of an owl allows it to flap its wings without a ‘whooshing‘ sound that could alert the prey. Unlike usual birds, it does not however flap its wings occasionally, and hence they attack by swooping down silently from the sky to take its prey by surprise.

The movement of an owl hence can be compared to a glide, rather than flying.

Clear Sounds

The sound coming from small animals like the mouse may be faint to human ears, but the owl can hear it very clearly. This ability known as binaural hearing, helps the owl in hunt to not just only hear the faintest movement of its prey, but also to track down its location specifically, and then attack it when least expected.

Their asymmetrically placed ears helped them to directly pin-point towards their feed.

Scurrying Prey

Most species of owls generally hunt down on small mammals, such as mice, insects, rodents, etc. However, there are still other varieties of the owl which alternatively feed on fishes.

It can be clearly understood that the behaviour of an owl in terms of its hunting strategies majorly depend on the the fact of their adaptation to a certain surrounding or habitat.  Hence while a Barn Owl might only hunt small insects like ants, snails, and rodents; a Wild Owl may only singularly look for mice.

Disk Face

All owls have the similar characteristic appearance, especially marked by a flat, disk-like face. Such a shape helps an owl to gather the sound waves coming from the prey centrally, and then focus them towards the ears.

Along with that, the owl has a small hook-like beak and large, forward-facing eyes. The tail is short and the wings are rounded.

Sensitive Ears

Owls by nature are quite sensitive towards the sounds around them, especially those made by their prey. These hints of sound become necessary for identifying the position of its prey the mice; be it they being at a distant location

Owls have asymmetrically placed ears; wherein one is placed slightly higher than the other. This auditory arrangement helps them to pinpoint the position of prey.

Hunting Grip

Like other birds of prey, owls have long claws, called talons, which are good for grabbing their prey. The structure of the bones in an owl’s feet are typically shorter and stronger, as compared to those of other hunting birds. It is in this manner so as to allow the owl to withstand the weight of its killed prey while in flight.

Typically, the owl’s foot has four toes. When it flies, 3 of these toes face forward, and one backwards.

When perched, or clutching prey, the outer front toe on each foot swivels to face the rear side.

Clearly an owl is is able to such movements because of the unique flexible joint present in the foot.


  • An owl usually has 3 eyelids- for different purposes: for blinking, sleeping and for keeping its eyes clean!
  • Owls can rotate their necks at 270 degrees, 135 degrees on either side!

Related Questions:

  1. What other species like the owl is commonly referred to as being nocturnal?
  2. What is the call sound of an owl?
  3. Can owl see in the day light?

Objective Questions:

  1. _______ are the most favoured prey of an owl.
  2. Owls are ______ in nature.
  3. All owls have a powerful vision at _______.
  4. Sensitive______ help the owl to hear the faintest sounds as well.
  5. A ______ sound is made by the wings of an owl.

True Or False:

  1. Owls are careful predators to rodents: _______
  2. An owl has a squarish face: ______
  3. Owls have strong talons to perch and hold on a tree branch: ______
  4. Owls can see in the day light: _____
  5. Owls hoot at night: _____

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