Owls are birds of prey. They are dangerous predators that hunt small animals. Are rabbits one of the prey animals owls feast on? And if so, just how do owls hunt them?
Owls prey on rabbits because they are the right size of small animals that these birds of prey hunt and eat. Rabbits are also most active during the twilight hours, and since owls hunt during the night, dusk and dawn fall in the time window when owls will be looking for food.
Let’s learn more about owls and how they prey on rabbits.
Do Owls Prey on Rabbits?
As opportunistic predators, owls will hunt, attack, and eat anything that is available to make up their next tasty meal. This “anything” includes small animals, like rabbits and rodents.
There are quite a number of species of owls that prey on rabbits:
- The sparrowhawk is mostly likely to hunt and eat kits (baby rabbits) since they are unable to kill or carry adult rabbits, especially if it is a medium-sized or large breed rabbit.
- The red kit owl is more of a scavenger so it’ll eat a dead rabbit but if it is hungry and food is scarce, it is opportunistic enough to kill a small breed rabbit.
- A kestrel prefers shrews, mice, small birds, earthworms, and voles but should there be a food scarcity, it’ll kill and eat a small rabbit.
- Small owls like a screech owl will prey on small rabbits and kits.
- Large owls, such as the barn owl, hawk owl, great horned owl, and barred owls, can prey on small and large rabbits.
Why Do Owls Eat Rabbits?
Smaller owls eat small rabbits and baby rabbits because these animals fit the size of prey the predator feasts on, while it is the same for larger owls and adult rabbits or medium/large breed rabbits.
Owls are nocturnal predators and rabbits are crepuscular animals. This means that bunnies are most active during dusk and dawn, which fits into the time when owls will start hunting for their next meal.
Are Rabbits Easy to Catch by Owls?
Wild rabbits are easier for owls to catch than domestic or pet rabbits; however, this may not always be the case.
Wild rabbits roam freely in the grasslands, fields, and other open areas when they look for food and eat. Thus, owls, with their great eyesight, will easily spot a rabbit out in the open and swoop in for the kill.
On the other hand, domestic rabbits are generally a bit more protected. If you keep your bunny outside, then the hutch or cage should protect your rabbit.
Plus, your rabbit isn’t likely to roam freely in your garden during dusk and nighttime, which is when owls are most out on the prowl. After all, owls are nocturnal animals.
If your rabbit hutch isn’t predator-proof, then there’s a chance that an owl might snatch your bunny.
Owls are great predators. Apart from their sharp eyesight, they are patient, so they sit and wait until they see or hear their prey.
Owls have great hearing. Without moving their bodies, owls can turn their heads 360 degrees, which helps them spot prey. Owl hearing is acute, and they can capture a rabbit by sound only.
They silently swoop in with precision and a high speed, and with their powerful, sharp talons, they aren’t likely to miss when they spot a rabbit or other prey animal.
Some large owls can carry up to 4 times their own body weight, so most owls can easily carry a rabbit that weighs 4 pounds or a hare that weighs 9 pounds.
One talon of a large owl has a pressure strength of 200-500 pounds per square inch. So an owl can easily crush the head and body of a rabbit and exert around 28-30 pounds of pressure when it squeezes an animal’s body.
With its sharp and powerful beak, the owl breaks the rabbit or hare apart so it can easily eat the animal. The owl eats the head of the rabbit first and then moves onto the other parts.
Ways to Protect Your Rabbits From Owls
There are several ways you can protect your pet rabbits from owls:
Method 1: Sturdy Wooden Hutch
For outdoor rabbits, a sturdy wooden hutch is essential. It’ll have a roof, so an owl can’t just come and swoop in from above and grab a bunny.
Method 2: Keep Rabbits Indoors
Keeping rabbits indoors is a great way to keep your bunnies safe from all kinds of predators. And an owl is unlikely to fly in your back door to snatch a rabbit.
Method 3: Make Your Yard Unappealing
Your backyard should be as unappealing to predators as possible. The grass should be cut short so no predator can hide in it. There should be no standing water that’ll attract animals to come to take a drink.
Install motion-detecting lights to deter owls and other nocturnal animals.
Method 4: Supervise Your Rabbit Outside
If you let your bunny play and hop in your garden, be there and keep your rabbit company. Owls are scared of animals that are bigger than they are, and that includes you.
If you happen to be outside at dusk or dawn and a brave owl flies overhead, wave your arms to appear even bigger and scare off the owl. If the rabbit is your kid’s, accompany your child and bunny outside and beware of any possible predator danger.
Method 5: Cover the Run
If your rabbit’s run is outside, make sure it has a cover on top so birds of prey like owls and hawks can’t just swoop down and snatch your bunny.
Method 6: Hang Shiny Objects
You can also hang shiny objects like old CDs or plastic bottles (empty Coke bottles) from tree branches, fences, etc. as the light that these objects reflect confuse birds of prey and distract them.
Keeping your rabbit safe is essential. After all, most rabbit breeds live quite long if you look after your bunny well, so they are a life-long bestie.
Owls are only one of the many rabbit predators out there, so keeping your bun safe also means knowing what predators to look out for. Check out our article on rabbit predators to learn more.