Misfit Animals is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn More.

How Long Do Owls Live? (All to Know About Their Lifespan)

Most owls live between five to ten years in the wild, but they can get as old as 25 years in captivity.

Have you ever wondered how long owls live? While there are more than 225 owl species, they’re generally long-living animals.

But how long do owls live exactly?

That’s what we’ll discuss in this article. We’ll also cover why owls live as long as they do, and the primary factors that affect their lifespan.

Did you know that most owls can live to be 25 years old?

How Long Do Owls Live?

Owls can generally live to be 25 years, though the average is much lower. This depends entirely on the species, as well as whether they live in captivity or the wild.

There are many different types of owls, all of which have different lifestyles and therefore different life expectancies. The length of an owl’s life mostly depends on two factors:

  • Whether it lives in captivity or in the wild (and how well they’re cared for)
  • The species of the owl

As these factors change, so does their life expectancy.

What do Barn Owls Eat

How Long Do Owls Live In the Wild?

The average lifespan of an owl is around 10 years. There are some owls that have been recorded living for 15 years in the wild, but most owls will die within 10 years of being born. This is largely due to worse living conditions compared to owls kept in captivity, no caretaker, predators, and the fact that they have to hunt for food each day.[1]

How Long Do Owls Live In Captivity?

Most owls can survive for up to 20 years in captivity. Smaller species of owls, such as screech-owls and pygmy owls, have a shorter lifespan than larger owls.

An owl’s lifespan is dependent on how well the caretaker provides for it. Owls are carnivores, eating mice, rats, and other small animals. Larger owls eat larger animals. If they’re fed properly, they will live long and healthy lives.

In captivity, owls are also treated for sickness, injuries, and shielded from predators. They also don’t have to spend time hunting and fighting for prey.[2]

owl in captivity

Owl Average Life Span

Owls have an average lifespan of nine to ten years.

An owl’s average life span depends on the species that they are. Even more, it also depends on how well they can adapt to their environment. This relates to migration[3], deforestation, and other external factors.

Owl Life Span On Species/ Breed

Owls can live anywhere from five to ten years in the wild and even longer in captivity. 16 species of owls have been recorded living over 20 years in the wild. Some captive owls have lived up to 28 years.

here are some of the most common owl species and their lifespan.

Related: Types of Owls (Full List)

Owl Species Lifespan In the Wild Lifespan In Captivity
Flammulated Owl 7 none indicated
Burrowing Owl 9 10
Barn Owl 2-4 20
Boreal Owl 10 16
Barred Owl 10+ 23
Snowy Owl 10+ 28
Spotted Owl 15 15+
Eastern Screech Owl 8-10 13
Western Screech Owl 1-8 19
Short-eared Owl 12 15
Elf Owl 5 14
Great Gray Owl 13 27
Great Horned Owl 13-15 28+
Long- eared Owl 12 10+
Northern Hawk Owl 10 10
Northern Saw-whet Owl 7 16
Northern Pygmy Owl 3 none indicated

What Owl Has The Longest Life Span?

The great horned owl has the longest life span, ranging from 10-20 years in the wild, and as much as 28 years in captivity.[4]

Great horned owls are one of the largest species and most capable hunters, which is also illustrated in their lifespan. These birds also have a superb sense of hearing that is helpful not only while hunting but also to communicate with other owls.

They’re resilient and can withstand quite a lot.

Great Horned Owl

What Owl Has The Shortest Life Span?

The elf owl has the shortest life span of only three to six years in the wild. They can live up to ten years in captivity.[5]

Instead of building nests on trees, elf owls builds stick nests on the ground and lays 2 eggs at a time. They’re small and are therefore also hunted by other large predators.

Elf owls inhabits dry regions and grasslands. The owl is nocturnal and hunts for prey such as insects, small mammals and sometimes even bats.

Most Common Causes of Death for Owls

Owls are generally hardy creatures that can take quite the beating. Their lifespan doesn’t just depend on species and habitat, but also on external factors such as external and internal injuries, sickness, parasites, and others.

Here are the most common causes of death for owls:

  • Injuries resulting from owl encounters.
  • Internal injuries. Even with prompt medical attention, internal injuries can be fatal.
  • Injuries resulting from owls’ natural surroundings.
  • Parasites are another common cause of death for owls[3]. Common parasites include various types of worms and mites. They feed on blood and if present in large amounts, it is possible for an owl to die from tick-borne diseases.
  • Accidents during flight.
  • Attacks from predators.

Owls can’t control every aspect of their life, just like all other creatures. At times, they suffer from external factors. 

This is another reason why captive owls live longer: they’re generally not threatened by these causes of death. With proper care, visits to veterinarians, and proper protection, they won’t be affected by predators, sickness, or injuries as often.

Factors That Determine The Lifespan of Owls

The life span of an owl can be determined by many factors. Most importantly, their lifespan is determined by their species and habitat – whether they live in the wild or in captivity.

Aside from species and lifestyle, owls are also affected by their location, food availability, predators, human interaction, and climate. These factors all contribute to the lifespan of owls, whether they die young or live to grow old.

Geographic location

One key factor in determining the lifespan of an owl is where it lives. Owls that live in harsher conditions tend to live shorter lives. This is a combination of the conditions, as well as the following factors.

African Grass-Owl

Food supply

Food availability is a major factor when it comes to lifespan. If there isn’t enough food to go around, they will eventually become sick and die. A number of owls are scavengers who feed on carrion. These types of birds may live longer than average as they have access to more food. 

Related: What Do Owls Eat?

What Do Owls Eat

Predators

Some owls are subject to attack by predators who may or may not kill them. The more predators that are around, the shorter owls are generally going to live. There are a number of predators that feed on owls, including other owls, wolves, eagles, and more.

eagle eating on its prey

Human interaction

Some owls may be killed by human hunters. They may also die as a result of other human-related accidents, such as being hit by a car. Other human activities, such as climate change and deforestation, also have an effect on the lifespan of owls.

Deforestation

Climate

The climate where an owl lives are important. Some parts of the world experience harsher weather than others. Owls living in warmer climates tend to live longer, whereas those who live in colder climates tend to struggle to survive.[6]

owl resting in the snow

Owl Life Cycle

Owls go through different stages of their life. Beginning with mating, the female owl lays eggs. These eggs later hatch into owlets. As they grow up they learn how to fly and hunt, and eventually leave the nest, only to start over again.

Overview of the owl life cycle:

  • The male and female mates
  • The female owl lays her eggs and incubates them (30 days)
  • The owlets stay as nestlings (4-10 weeks depending on species)
  • Nestlings turn into adolescent owls, learning how to fly and hunt (2-4 weeks)
  • Adolescent owls turn into adult owls and leave the nest

The owl life cycle begins with mating rituals, where the male owl tries to attract a female owl through singing and dancing.

After mating, the male owl returns to his home territory, while the female owl lays eggs.

The owl life cycle continues with the hatching of baby owls (owlets). They are born without feathers and closed eyes. They weigh between 1.5-2 ounces (40–60 grams) and are no more than a few inches tall. These owls will remain in the nest until their flight feathers grow in, which takes about four to six weeks.

Once the baby owls have grown their flight feathers, they leave the nest to join in on hunting. When they have learned to do this, they are ready to leave the nest.

Owls generally live from 4 – 25 years in the wild depending on their species and location. In captivity, owls can live up to 30 years. The owl life cycle end when an owl dies, which can be from various causes including predation and starvation.

Conclusion

The length of an owl’s life depends on the species and its living condition. For example, if an owl lives in captivity it can live up to 25 years, while if it lives in the wild its lifespan is shortened to around 10-12 years.

There are also additional external factors that can affect their lifespans, such as diseases, injuries, parasites, and predators.

FAQs

Do owls live for 300 years?

No, they don’t. An owl’s life expectancy is relatively short compared to humans. In the wild, most owls live for about four to ten years. They may survive up to 25 years in captivity. There are various aspects that can affect an owl’s lifespan, including its habitat, climate, and physical condition.

What is the oldest owl in the world?

The Barn owl is the oldest owl species in the world. The oldest owl ever to live was a great horned owl, which lived to turn 28.

Do owls mate for life?

Yes, owl mating is a lifelong commitment. All owls are monogamous, and owl couples often stay together for the rest of their lives. Grey owl couples only take an immediate break from mating (not a permanent break) during nesting and rearing of their young. A new owl couple will form after this time, and the parents raise the owlets together under one nest.

About Kaitlin Mullins

Birds are plenty, and they can be hard to keep track of. Thankfully, Katilin Mullins has taken charge of these. With plenty of free time spent bird watching, she’s a true expert on these intriguing animals.