Skip to content

Birds On Menu: Do Owls Eat Hummingbirds?

Do Owls Eat Hummingbirds

Owls are known to eat small ground mammals such as snakes, mice, squirrels, and frogs. Sometimes, scarcity causes owls to pick different animals, like birds, as part of their menu.

But do owls eat hummingbirds? Yes, certain species of owls eat hummingbirds. These are the small owls belonging to the Strigidae family. These owls hunt hummingbirds in a state of torpor. It is because they live in the same habitat and are a good protein source.

Read on to find out the strategies owls use to catch hummingbirds.

Do Owls Eat Hummingbirds?

Yes, certain owl species eat hummingbirds. Most of these owls belong to the Strigidae family. Owls that eat hummingbirds are small in stature and are also called “owlets.” 

They hunt and target small birds, including hummingbirds, especially during the breeding season, to meet higher energy demands. This means the timespan is during winter or early spring. 

Do Owls Eat Hummingbirds

Hummingbirds enter an involuntary resting state called a torpor state. In this state, their body temperature drops, and they have reduced mental and physical activity. Owls usually attack hummingbirds when they are in a state of torpor and are defenseless.

The owl species that eat hummingbirds are as follows:

Ferruginous Pygmy Owl (Glaucidium brasilianum)

At 6 inches tall, this owl is found in Central, South, and North America. They live in both desert and rainforest regions. They use the perch-and-dive strategy to capture resting hummingbirds. 

They are crepuscular, meaning they actively hunt during the day, mostly at dawn or dusk. As hummingbirds are also diurnal or crepuscular, they are often a visible target.

Ferruginous Pygmy Owl

Northern Pygmy Owl (Glaucidium californicum)

At 7 inches tall, this owl is found in North America. They use the sit-and-wait strategy. They sit atop the highest tree where they can hardly be seen. 

Once they spot a vulnerable hummingbird, they perch from branch to branch to get closer to its prey. They then pounce on the hummingbird’s neck with their powerful razor-sharp talons.

They are also crepuscular, which coincides with the timing of hummingbirds.

Northern Pygmy Owl

Eastern Screech Owl (Megascops Asio)

At 6-10 inches tall, this owl is found in Eastern North America, particularly across Canada and Mexico. They also use the sit-and-wait strategy to hunt hummingbirds. 

Unlike the pygmy owls, the Eastern Screech Owl is strictly nocturnal. This means they are active and prey on hummingbirds at night. 

They possess excellent night vision, hearing abilities, and the quietest feathers. It allows them to silently sneak up on hummingbirds at night or raid their nests.

Eastern Screech Owl

Elf Owl (Micrathene Whitneyi)

The elf owl is the smallest species of owl in the world. They are mostly found across the Southwestern USA to Central Mexico and Baja California.

See also:  How Long Do Owls Stay In One Place Or In The Same Area?

At a height of 4.9-5.7 inches, these ferocious little predators use the perch-and-dive strategy to take down hummingbirds. 

They are also nocturnal beings, preying on victims only at dusk and at night. Before pouncing on the hummingbird, it pauses and hovers in the air to maximize its aim.

Elf Owl

Why Do Owls Eat Hummingbirds?

It may come as a surprise that one bird species would eat another bird species. However, in the animal kingdom, it is perfectly normal.

Owls are known as ‘birds of prey’ and are carnivorous. Much of the time, their diet includes invertebrates like worms, insects, small mammals, and amphibians. 

Why Do Owls Eat Hummingbirds

The main reasons why owls eat hummingbirds are as follows:

Good Source Of Protein

Hummingbirds have a high nutritional value. It can provide sufficient protein, fat, and carbohydrates for the owl to function well, especially during the breeding season.

Same Habitat

Owls and hummingbirds live in the same type of habitat. These habitats include grasslands, wetlands, rainforests, mountains, and agricultural areas.

This makes hummingbirds an available food source for owls, compared to other prey.

Scarcity

In rough environments where the owl has difficulty finding its usual prey, the hummingbird presents itself as the solution to its appetite. An owl with chicks needs food to survive in rough climates. 

To survive and feed their young, owls hunt down hummingbirds. Owls do not specifically target only hummingbirds. They strike down any prey near them.

Torpor State

When hummingbirds are in a state of torpor, their body dials down partial mental and motor activity. This reduced physical inactivity makes them an easy target in front of owls.

A nocturnal owl searching for prey at night sees the hummingbirds roosting in this state and makes the move. 

How Do Owls Catch Hummingbirds?

Owls catch hummingbirds either in the daytime or night. It depends on whether the owl is diurnal or nocturnal.

Once an owl spots a vulnerable hummingbird, it stealthily and inaudibly swoops down near the target. Then, it pounces or grasps the hummingbird with their powerful talons. 

How Do Owls Catch Hummingbirds

The owl stabs the hummingbird repeatedly with its talons until it dies. Once dead, it either swallows the whole hummingbird or stores it somewhere else to consume later. 

See also:  Owl Resting Patterns: How Do Owls Sleep?

An owl’s talons have the strength to firmly grasp and carry 1.4 times the size of its weight.

How Do Hummingbirds Protect Themselves From Owls?

Hummingbirds protect themselves from owls in the following ways:

  • Hummingbirds are smaller in size than owls, measuring only 3-5 inches in length. This gives them an incredible amount of speed of up to 55 km/hr. Their quick agility helps them evade the clutches of predators by moving forwards, backward, or sideways.
  • Hummingbirds build their nest at least 10-90 feet high above tree trunks or thin branches. This makes them extremely difficult to locate as these tiny creatures are out of an owl’s reach.
  • They also have incredible eyesight and can spot predators from a distance. 
  • They have colorful, iridescent feathers that can quickly daze and confuse owls during a chase.
  • They have a special ability where they can detach their tail feathers whenever owls catch them. The owl is left catching the expendable tail feathers, allowing the hummingbird to escape from its clutches. These tail feathers grow back again.
  • Hummingbirds are known to be aggressive little creatures as well. When push comes to shove, they will face the owl head-on to protect itself or its nest.
How Do Hummingbirds Protect Themselves From Owls

FAQ

Below are some frequently asked questions related to owls and hummingbirds.

1. Are hummingbirds scared of owls?

Yes, hummingbirds are scared of owls due to their predatory behavior, carnivorous tendencies, and relatively large size.

2. Do owls and hummingbirds share similar characteristics?

Yes, owls and hummingbirds share some similar characteristics. Sharp visual acuity, agility, swift flight, and preference for living in a similar habitat are some of the key similarities.

3. Do owls solely prey on hummingbirds while they are in a torpid state?

No, owls prey on hummingbirds at other times as well. It is difficult to chase a hummingbird head-on as they are extremely agile and fast. 

This is why owls choose to sneak up silently from behind when hummingbirds are perching on a tree.

Final Thoughts

It should be clear now that certain species of owls, particularly small owls, eat hummingbirds. They may do so out of necessity or because they live in the same habitat. Some of these owls are crepuscular, while others are nocturnal.

Hummingbirds possess a strong defense mechanism. Owls tend to prey on them when they are perching or in a state of torpor. The ability of the owl to fly inaudibly allows them to catch hummingbirds almost perfectly.

nv-author-image

Peter Kaestner

Hi there, my name is Peter Kaestner and I am the owner of Birdsauthority.com. As a avid bird watcher and enthusiast with a passion for ornithology, I want to share my knowledge and experience with other bird lovers through this blog. As someone who regularly participates in bird-related forums and groups online, I am dedicated to helping others learn more about these amazing creatures. However, it's important to note that while I am happy to share my expertise and advice, it is always crucial to consult with an avian veterinarian before making any decisions that could potentially impact your bird's health or well-being. Your bird's health and happiness should always be your top priority, and consulting with a professional is the best way to ensure that you are making informed decisions on their behalf. I hope that through my blog, I can help make a positive difference in the lives of birds and the people who care for them. Whether you are an experienced bird owner or just starting out, I encourage you to use this resource as a way to learn more about these fascinating animals and how to provide them with the best possible care.View Author posts