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What Do Screech Owls Eat? (Full Diet List)

Screech owls eat all kinds of small animals. They feed on a surprising amount of reptiles, such as lizards, as well as insects, frogs, fish, birds, and other small creatures.

There are many things to learn about screech owls, including their diet. These owls are small, and their diet reflects this.

While they are birds of prey and share dietary preferences with many other similar birds, they do have some interesting preferences.

So, what do screech owls eat?

Surprisingly, they’ll feast on a variety of different prey items. From small mammals to amphibians, these birds can pretty much survive on anything they can get their talons on. Keep reading to find out more about what, when, and how they eat.

The Screech Owl

Screech owls are small birds that belong to the family Strigidae. They are most recognized for their color, which is a combination of reddish browns and gray feathers.

As for their size and weight, they’re typically six to nine inches (16–25 cm) tall and weigh only about 5-6 ounces (160 grams).

These small owls are nocturnal, hunting during the night and resting during the day. Their diet reflects this behavior.

They typically swallow their prey whole. This results in some regurgitation afterward, also known as “owl pellets” made from rodent hair, bones, and from the prey animals that the screech owl has eaten.[1]

Backyard screech owl

What Do Screech Owls Eat?

Screech owls eat a variety of animals, including mammals, reptiles, insects, fish, and occasionally birds. Their diet largely depends on their habitat.

Screech owls are small, nocturnal birds that eat what is available to them. Depending on where they live, their diet changes.

Most of these small owls eat a variety of animals, such as small mammals, birds, and other smaller animals.

Due to their size, they can’t target large prey.

Insects

A large part of screech owls’ diet is made up of insects[2]. Because there are so many insects (the most abundant animals in the world), it’s easy for screech owls to secure a meal.

A few of the insects that screech-owls eat are the following:

  • grasshoppers
  • moths
  • crickets
  • beetles
Grasshopper on the leaves

Small mammals

Rodents and other small mammals are part of most owls’ diet, including the screech owls’. Mammals are diverse and widespread, making them present in almost all habitats all over the world. Here are some examples of these:

  • Squirrels
  • Rats
  • Mice
  • Small rabbits
small rat on the ground

Reptiles

Lizards and salamanders are both eaten by screech owls in the wild. These are small, cold-blooded reptiles that can be easily captured and swallowed. 

Most screech owls will only eat lizards if there is nothing else available to them. They don’t provide much meat, and reptiles are typically very slender animals. 

small lizard

Amphibians

Screech owls do occasionally eat amphibians in the wild. Screech owls are known to catch and eat frogs, which they do either at night or in the early morning.

The screech owl will eat frogs living in the same location as them. They’re quite easy to catch, as frogs aren’t very fast.

small frog on river

Fish

While fish don’t make up a significant part of a screech owl’s diet, they do occasionally feed on them[3]. Some species of owls rely more on fish. 

This is how a screech owl typically hunts fish:

  • They perch on a tree above the water.
  • using their keen eyesight, they’re able to spot fish in the water.
  • When a fish swims close to the surface, they’ll fly down, catching them with their talons.

Screech owls aren’t picky when it comes to the type of fish. They will eat almost anything that is small enough for them to capture, which often includes goldfish, crayfish, or minnows.

Birds

Screech owls are known as opportunistic predators. It means that they hunt what is available to them, including birds[4]. As they’re small in size, they feed on small birds.

songbird

Screech Owls’ Diet Depending on Region

Habitat and distribution majorly affect dietary options and availability of prey. It’s only natural, that owls living in different locations have different diets. Eastern owls eat more rodents, while western owls eat more reptiles.

Region Prey
Eastern Screech Owl Small rodents and large insects
Western Screech Owl Small mammals, large insects, and reptiles

What Do Screech Owls Eat In The Wild?

Screech owls eat many different animals in the wild. They’re hunters, and they hunt all animals small enough for them to kill.

Screech owls live in many different habitats and places. Hence, they hunt different animals depending on habitat but also depending on the season. 

In the summer they will also eat baby rabbits, moles, voles, pocket gophers, and shrews. They’re not migratory birds but may extend their home range if there’s a lack of food in the winter.

Related: What Do Owls Eat?

What Do Screech Owls Eat In Captivity?

Screech owls’ diet can be controlled in captivity. They tend to be fed a mixture of various types of mice. They may also be fed other small, dead animals, which are commercially available. 

What Do Baby Screech Owls Eat?

Just like with any animal, baby screech owls start out eating things that are soft and easy to digest. This is regurgitated food from their parents.

Baby owls typically eat the same as their parents, as they can’t hunt for themselves. In the beginning, the mother will regurgitate food into the nest, or directly into the owlets mouths. 

Later, the baby owls are able to eat whole chunks of meat.

Most screech owl mothers only offer food once or twice a day, so they have to make it last until their next chance to eat!

How Much Does A Screech Owl Eat?

A screech owl can eat up to one-third of its body weight at a time. However, this is only if they haven’t eaten for a while. They can go a couple of days without eating, but if they eat regularly, they’ll typically eat 5-10% of their body weight.

Are Screech Owls Carnivores?

Screech owls are carnivores, which means that they only hunt and eat other animals. Screech owls mainly hunt rodents, but will also catch insects, especially when nesting chicks are young.

Screech owls are birds of prey, meaning they hunt other animals. They solely rely on meat for sustenance, as their digestive system can’t process plants.

They also can’t process bones, or hair, which results in regurgitation when they swallow their prey whole.

Conclusion

Screech owls feed on small animals, due to their own small size. This includes small mammals, reptiles, and a large portion of insects. They’re carnivores, meaning they only eat meat. They don’t eat any plants, as their body can’t break these down.

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.