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Do Owls Eat Bats? (And Everything You Need to Know)

owl ready to dive on its prey

As nocturnal creatures, there have always been lots of mysteries about owls and bats. Along with these mysteries, there are some myths about the two creatures, and we have always wondered if they're true or false. For instance, do owls eat bats?


Being nocturnal creatures, they're bound to interact several times. Plus, bats are not easy prey for small to medium-sized owls. So in this article, we'll answer the question, "Do owls eat bats?" We will also elaborate more on the exact owl species that consume bats.

Do Owls Eat Bats? 

Yes, owls do eat bats. Owls are predatory birds with a varied diet that includes small mammals, birds, insects, and reptiles. While their primary food source is often rodents, bats can be part of their diet, especially for species of owls that are adapted for nocturnal hunting.

These large to medium-sized owls hunt bats from time to time, particularly when there is a limited source of food. In most cases, the bat may be injured since they don't make easy prey.

Most owls have excellent night vision and the ability to fly silently, making them well-suited to catch bats in flight.

The Types of Owls That Eat Bats

tawny owl

Do owls eat bats? Yes, but it's worth noting that not all owls eat bats, and the dietary preferences can vary depending on the owl species, their habitat, and the availability of prey in their environment. Some of the most common owls that eat bats include:

  • Barn owls: Barn owls eat skunks and bats. While the primary diet of barn owls consists of small ground animals like rodents, they are opportunistic hunters and will consume other prey that is available to them. Barn owls are skilled hunters and can catch bats in mid-air using their sharp talons.
  • Great Horned Owl: Like some owls, the Great Horned Owls eat bats. The Great Horned Owl is one of the biggest tufted North American Owls. The Great Horned Owl has powerful talons and excellent night vision, allowing it to catch bats in flight or pluck them from roosting sites. The Great Horned Owls eat bats when the opportunity arises.
  • Tawny owls: Tawny Owls eat bats occasionally. Tawny Owls are nocturnal hunters that primarily feed on small mammals like rodents, birds, and insects. Bats, being nocturnal flyers, can be preyed upon by Tawny Owls.
  • Barred owls: While the primary diet of Barred Owls consists of small mammals like rodents, they are known to occasionally eat bats as well. Like other owls, Barred Owls have excellent nocturnal vision and can catch bats in flight or target them while roosting.
  • Screech owls: another owl that eats bats is the Screech owl, that's native to the American continent. Screech owls eat bats, shrews, mice, and occasionally bats.

Types of Bats That Owls Eat

fruit bat

Owls are known to prey on a variety of bat species, depending on their geographical location and habitat. Some of the bat species that owls commonly feed on include:

  • Insectivorous bats: Owls often target small insect-eating bats as they are abundant and easier to catch. These may include species like pipistrelles, myotis bats, brown long-eared bats, and other similar-sized insectivorous bats.
  • Frugivorous bats: Owls may occasionally prey on fruit bats or frugivorous bats, especially larger owls. Fruit bats consume fruits, nectar, and pollen and are found in tropical regions. When given the opportunity, owls may eat bats.
  • Fishing bats: Fishing bats are a specialized group of bats that are eaten by owls. Owls that inhabit areas with fishing bats may occasionally catch and consume them, although it is less common.

Do Owls Eat Bats Out of Hunger or Dietary Reasons?

Owls primarily eat bats and other prey for their dietary needs, as they require a diverse range of food sources to meet their nutritional requirements. Owls have specific dietary needs that include a balance of proteins, fats, and other nutrients. While hunger plays a role in their hunting behavior, owls do not eat bats or other prey solely out of hunger.

Most owls are opportunistic predators, and their diet is influenced by the availability and abundance of prey in their environment.

Owls prey on bats because bats are part of their natural food web and represent a viable food source.

owl with a caught up prey

Owls have evolved to be effective hunters of nocturnal creatures like bats, taking advantage of their flight patterns and roosting habits. It's worth noting that the specific dietary needs and prey preferences can vary among owls.

Different species have different adaptations and ecological niches, resulting in variations in their diet. Some owl species may rely more heavily on bats as a food source, while others may have a more diverse range of prey items.

Risks Associated With Owls Eating Bats

There are a few risks associated with owls consuming bats, both for the owls themselves and for the bat populations:

  • Disease transmission: Bats are known to carry various diseases, including rabies and coronaviruses. If an owl consumes an infected bat, there is a risk of disease transmission to the owl. However, it's worth noting that owls have evolved mechanisms to deal with certain pathogens and can tolerate some level of exposure.
  • Toxicity: Some bats, especially fruit bats, may consume fruits that contain toxins or pesticides. If an owl consumes a bat that has ingested toxic substances, it can be affected by the toxins as well. This can potentially harm the owl's health and well-being.

Frequently Asked Questions

What do owls eat the most?

Owls primarily feed on a variety of small mammals, including species such as mice, voles, rats, shrews, and sometimes rabbits. Other common prey items for owls include birds, reptiles, amphibians, and invertebrates such as insects and spiders.

Where do owls hunt bats?

Owls have been known to patrol the bat's flight path while hunting them. On top of that, they also find bats in their feeding area near water bodies and on their roosting sites, such as buildings, tree cavities, and caves.

Can owls and bats coexist?

Yes, owls and bats can coexist in the same ecosystem. Owls and bats occupy different ecological niches and have evolved to utilize different food sources and habitats. They play important roles in the ecosystem and can coexist without significant direct competition.

an owl staring sternly

Read Also: Do Owls Eat Rabbits?


Do owls eat bats? Yes, most medium-sized and huge owls hunt bats for nutritional purposes. Some medium-sized owls, like the Tawny owls, Long Eared Owls, and Barn owls, can only feed on small-sized bat species.

These owls feed on a wide range of bats, with the most common ones being pipistrelles, myotis bats, and brown long-eared bats.

Other than owls, bats are also eaten by a few natural predators, including fisher cats and even domestic cats.

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