How Does An Owl Hunt At Night? Explained In Detail

How Does An Owl Hunt At Night?

The quintessential birds of the night, the owls are the beautiful creatures that inspire admiration, fear, and also a little mystery. 

About 200 species of owl are found in nature mainly belonging to the family Strigidae and Tytonidae which consists of all the living species. 

They have learned and adapted great hunting skills that have allowed them to hunt with great precision. 

With their super hunting and killing habits, the owls are one of the most successful carnivores that can feed on animals, birds, reptiles, insects, etc. 

There are also some species like the Fishing owl, mainly found in Asia and Africa that feed on fish.

But In this article, we’ll focus on nocturnal owls, how, why, when, and what they feed on during dark. 

So without further ado, let’s get into it. 

How Does An Owl Hunt At Night?

The nocturnal owls can detect the presence of their prey even with slight and faint sounds. 

Stanford University studied the details with the help of barn owls as they are extensive nocturnal hunters. 

Extensive experiments By neurobiologists proved that barn owls then catch and locate prey with the help of sound only. 

This sensitive hearing is increased due to the presence of facial ruffs, a concave surface, and elongated feathers. 

The presence of this facial rap increases the chance of hearing. Once the owl listens to the sound it approaches the ray and captures it, requiring a mere amount of time to detect whether the sound is coming from the right, left, or center. 

The difference between the intensity of the sound received by each here detects the source of the sound vertically. 

The sound approaching from above the position of the owl will be much higher than the one received from the eye level as they have asymmetrical openings at their ears. 

The owl’s ears are connected with each other by specialized cells in the midbrain, but each cell has a unique sense to determine the intensity of the sound received by both ears. 

Why Does An Owl Hunt At Night?

The owls are nocturnal animals that are silent and formidable hunters. 

They fly with their wings silently which is developed from the structural modification of the first primary wing, which is found in almost all owl species. 

When they predict the presence of prey by only listening to the sound, the special wing feathers stop the sound of the flight by rushing the air across the wing surface making it quiet. 

Even in total darkness, they can be found solely depending on their eyesight and hearing capacity.

Owls prefer to hunt at night because of the availability of more prey than in daylight when there is much more competition. 

The animals that they feed on during the night are also mostly nocturnal ones who come out from their safe shelter in search of food, water, and other requirements like a mating partner, another place, and requirements for nesting. 

They can also be out to roam around or play with other same species but the owls wait for their perfect chance to find and feed on them. 

What Time Of Night Do Owls Hunt?

Owls can hunt at any time of the day depending on what time they prefer between morning, night, or dawn and dusk. 

It depends on the specific species at what time they’re hunting but some scientific studies state that most preferably hunt at dusk and dawn because of the availability of more prey as the birds are more active and easily spotted during dusk and dawn.

The moonlight is also a perfect time for hunting for the owls as the low light and hearing can easily help them locate the prey. 

Do All Owls Hunt At Night?

Though owls are generally considered nocturnal birds but some of them do not prefer to hunt at night.

Owls are diurnal also and prefer to hunt during daytime, like the snowy owl of the Arctic region who hunts in the most available daylight of the North pole. 

The other type is crepuscular, which preferably hunts during dusk and dawn.

But apart from all these theories, many exceptions are there who hunt at any time of the day if they are hungry or have to feed their partners or babies. 

What Do Owls Eat At Night?

Owls generally feed on a diet comprised of mammals, rodents, reptiles, birds, and other small species like also fish. 

Availability of the food becomes easy during low light conditions like dusk, dawn, and also nighttime because the animals feel it’s safe to come out and roam around. Some animals like mice or rabbits are mostly nocturnal and prefer to come out at night for their own prey and get caught by the owls who then readily feast on it. 


Owls hunt using their super senses, the primary one that owls use all of the time is their super-hearing abilities. 

Their flat, dish-like faces act as a soundboard that focuses and amplify the sound to their ear. 

Some have asymmetrical hearing that allows them to hear sound in multiple dimensions, inside the brain by specialized cells. 

Using this, they can pinpoint where their prey is and dive to catch them up to 2 feet underground too. This ability is generally used during the low light times of the day. 

At last, I hope through this article you got something informative.

Thanks for reading! 

Related Articles You May Like

Scroll to Top