Yes, owls eat rats.
In fact, rats are one of the favored prey of many owl species, including barn owls
. Owls are natural predators that primarily hunt at night with their keen night vision and stealth, and they can eat up to 12 mice in an average night. Certain owl species, such as barn owls, are more sociable and even shelter or hunt in small groups, meaning they can quickly reduce the rodent population in any location they inhabit. Owls swallow their prey whole and then undigested bones and fur are coughed up (regurgitated) as owl pellets, which can be dissected and prey readily identified by the skeletons left behind. Farmers appreciate owls and other raptors because they feed on rodents that can damage their crops and irrigation systems.
What Other Types Of Prey Do Owls Typically Consume Besides Rats?
Owls are carnivorous and eat a variety of prey, including small, rodent-like mammals such as voles and mice, which are the primary prey for many owl species.
However, they also consume other creatures such as frogs, lizards, snakes, fish, rabbits, birds, and squirrels.
Some owls, like the Flammulated Owl, eat insects almost exclusively.
The diet of an owl depends on its species, and there are around 216 different species of owls in the world.
For example, the long-eared owl eats field voles, wood mice, bank voles, and birds, while the screech owl eats insects, rodents, snails, slugs, amphibians, and fish.
Owls are at the high-end of the food chain and do not have many natural predators, but they can be preyed upon by animals such as wildcats, foxes, raccoons, weasels, snakes, squirrels, hawks, skunks, and eagles.
How Do Owls Locate And Capture Rats As Their Prey?
Owls are efficient predators that use their super senses to locate and capture their prey.
Here are some ways owls locate and capture rats as their prey:
- Super-hearing abilities: Owls use their dish-like faces as a soundboard that focuses and amplifies sound to their ears.
They have A-symmetrical hearing that allows them to hear sound in multiple dimensions.
Using this, they can pinpoint where their prey is and dive to catch them up to 2 feet underground.
- Keen eyesight: Owls have excellent vision that allows them to locate their prey even on dim nights.
- Rustling noises: According to an article on American Scientist, the rustling noises made by a vole contain a wide range of frequencies that provide all the information necessary for the owl to locate the prey.
The noises provide all the information needed for the owl to locate it in space.
- Mid-flight course corrections: Experiments with trained barn owls reveal that they can make mid-flight course corrections, like the moon shots, in order to strike the prey.
- Talons and beaks: Owls capture their prey with their sharp talons and beaks.
- Swallowing prey whole: Owls often swallow their prey whole and then undigested bones and fur are coughed up (regurgitated) as owl pellets.
Different species of owls have different preferences for food type, but most owls are opportunistic and will take whatever prey is available in the area.
For example, barn owls will mainly eat mice or shrews, while scops and screech owls feed on insects mostly.
Are There Any Particular Owl Species That Have A Preference For Rats Over Other Types Of Prey?
There are several owl species that primarily feed on rodents, including rats.
However, it is not clear whether any particular owl species has a preference for rats over other types of prey.
- Barn Owl: This medium-sized owl feeds mainly on rodents, including rats, and can eat at least one rat a day.
- Tawny Owl: This owl is an opportunistic and generalized predator that takes an extremely wide range of prey species, including black rats, which accounted for 35.3% of prey items in one study.
- Long-eared Owl: This owl is a somewhat specialized predator that focuses its diet almost entirely on small rodents, especially voles, but it is not clear whether it has a preference for rats over other types of prey.