Do Owls Attack Humans? If So Why? - Ask About Birds (2023)

Owls are generally thought of as being shy and reclusive creatures. But there have been instances where they have attacked humans. This usually occurs when the owl feels threatened, such as when its nesting area is disturbed.

In most cases, the attacks are not serious and the owl will quickly release its victim once it realizes that there is no threat. However, there have been some reports of adult owls inflicting serious injuries with their sharp talons.

If you are ever confronted by an owl, it is important to remain calm and avoid making any sudden movements.

Why Do Owls Attack Humans?

It’s actually pretty rare for owls to attack humans. Most of the time, they only do so if they feel threatened or if their nest is in danger. Sometimes, people can accidentally scare an owl or get too close to its nest, which can lead to an attack.

Owls will attack anything or anyone who approaches their nest, as they may perceive them to be a threat. This can often lead to owls attacking the head and face of an individual, which can result in severe injuries.

Larger owls have enormous gripping strength of up to 500 psi. Their razor-sharp inch-long claws and giant talons can cause serious skin damage and deep lacerations, including taking out a human eye. And like an eagle, this bird can fly at great speed.

Birds of prey such as owls can attack humans if they are confused by the town’s noises and lights. Animals in the wild can become easily confused and may cause them to attack humans. If you see an owl in the town, it is best to leave it alone.

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Are Owls Dangerous?

Many people are wondering, are owls dangerous? The answer is yes. Owls can be very dangerous to humans and their pets. They are known for their hunting skills and have sharp talons and powerful, scissor-like beaks that are designed for tearing flesh.

These birds of prey usually hunt for small rodents as prey and food.

Fortunately, owls are not a threat to humans. Most of these avian creatures, even the larger species, will get away quickly and avoid conflict if they encounter humans. Owls will attack cats or dogs though.

But make no mistake, owls, unlike most animals, lack the ability to feel fear. They don’t get intimated easily by the enormous size of other creatures, predators, or otherwise. So, they will not hesitate to attack a human if they feel threatened or if their young are in danger.

Attacks by birds of prey like owls are extremely rare, but they can be dangerous. Most high-profile attacks have been made by Great Horned Owls, Snowy Owls, and Barred Owls.

If you’re hiking or jogging at night in an area where owls live, be aware of your surroundings and avoid disturbing them. And if you see one of these birds flying in the sky or perched on a tree, it may be out to hunt and kill for food. Don’t be curious, and stay away from trees.

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What to Do When an Owl Attacks You?

It’s hard to stop an owl attack because they happen so fast. There’s a good chance you won’t hear or see it coming, and the owl’s already gone before you realize what hit you.

That said, here are a few things you can do to protect yourself from owl attacks.

  • Be aware of your surroundings at all times, especially if you are in an area known to have a high population of owls. It’s best to stay away from these areas to avoid owl attacks. If you see an owl flying overhead, be sure to duck or take cover immediately.
  • Wear protective clothing when outdoors, such as a hat or scarf to cover your head and face. The first thing you should do if you see an owl swooping toward you is protect your head. If you cover your head quickly with your hands and arms, you’re less likely to sustain a more serious injury.
  • When an owl flies towards you, don’t run as it may provoke the bird.
  • If you are attacked by an owl, try to remain calm and avoid flailing your arms or legs. Instead, use whatever you have on hand to defend yourself, such as an umbrella or a stick.
  • If all else fails, remember that owls are wild animals and can be scared off by loud noises. So, if an owl is attacking you at night, make as much noise as possible to scare the owl away.
  • When an owl attacks you, you’ve probably crossed over into owl territory. Get out of the area as soon as possible and head to more populated areas, as the owl won’t follow you.
  • If you are attacked by an owl and sustain minor injuries, be sure to seek medical attention immediately. Even though owls are not known to carry diseases, their talons and beaks can cause serious injury.

Can An Owl Pick Up a Human Child?

No, most owls are not strong enough to lift anything that weighs more than they do. The largest owls in the world weigh around 6.5lbs, which is lighter than the average newborn baby. So, if a smaller owl tried to lift a human child, it probably wouldn’t be able to.

However, other owl species such as the Great Horned Owl are known to be able to carry off heavier prey if they are hungry – even up to 20lbs! They often feed on prey ranging from voles to jackrabbits and from snakes to skunks, so cats and small dogs aren’t viewed any differently.

Conclusion on Does an Owl Attack Humans

Do owls attack humans? It’s a question that has puzzled people for years. The answer is, unfortunately, yes. Owls will often attack a human if they feel threatened, especially if their young and nests are disturbed. However, this doesn’t mean you have to be afraid of them – just use caution and respect their space if you ever encounter one in the wild.

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FAQs on Do Owls Attack People

Are Owls Friendly to Humans?

The simple answer is no, owls are not friendly to humans. In fact, they generally don’t show any affection or emotions towards humans at all. This is because they are wild animals and their instinct is to be wary of people.

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However, there have been some reports of owls becoming attached to individual humans, but this is very rare. If you do come across an owl that seems friendly, it’s best to leave it alone as it could be sick or injured.

Do Owls Carry Rabies?

No, only mammals can be infected with rabies and potentially transmit the disease. Owls are not mammals, so they cannot carry or transmit rabies. If you see an owl that appears to be acting strangely, it is important to contact a wildlife expert or animal control officer for assistance. Do not try to handle the owl yourself, especially if it’s on the ground, as it could be sick or injured and pose a risk to your health.

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Do Snowy Owls Attack People?

Yes, snowy owls are known to attack humans, especially during the breeding or mating season when they are protecting their nests. Males are usually the aggressors, but females will also attack if their young owls are threatened.

Like most other owls, these birds can be very territorial and will fiercely defend their territory from any perceived threat. If you encounter a snowy owl, it is best to give it a wide berth to avoid being attacked.

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Where Do Most Barred Owls Live in North America?

The barred owl is found in the Northern regions of Carolina, Texas, and British Columbia. These owls are nocturnal hunters and prefer to live in wooded areas near water. Barred owls typically mate for life and will use the same nest year after year.

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How Can You Tell the Difference Between a Great Horned Owl and a Barred Owl?

Well, there are a few key things to look for.

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  • Barred owls are generally slightly smaller than great horned owls.
  • Barred owls have dark eyes and a yellow bill, whereas great horned owls have yellow eyes and a dark bill.
  • Barred owls tend to have horizontal stripes on their chests, while great horned owls have more of a mottled appearance.

Watch How to Survive an Owl Attack


Do Owls Attack Humans? If So Why? - Ask About Birds? ›

Owls are generally very passive animals, but they can be aggressive if they feel threatened or provoked. This is especially true for owls that have young or a mate nearby. Most owl attacks on humans do not result in serious injury, and death from an owl attack is very rare.

Do owls attack humans? ›

Owls of all kinds have been known to attack people when defending their young, their mates, or their territories. Frequent targets include unsuspecting joggers and hikers. Often victims escape without injury, and deaths from owl attacks are extremely rare.

Why do owls swoop down on people? ›

They attack things they think are prey because they're not good at hunting yet,” he said. “So if somebody comes running down a trail, and she's got a ponytail bobbing in the air, to young owls, that looks like a mouse or a rat that they would eat. That's when people get swooped down on.”

What are the chances of being attacked by an owl? ›

Assuming that you're human, as are most readers of this column, the odds of any aggressive owl behavior directed at you are quite slim. Most of the moves that owls put on other creatures are about food acquisition. Owls are predators, hunting and killing their food, and people don't qualify for that.

How do owls warn you? ›

"They may call or hiss or even click their bills to give you some idea that they're there," she said. "They often want to give you a warning or see if they can scare you off using those tactics before they take it up another level and actually go after you."

Do owls attack humans or dogs? ›

Yes, owls do attack dogs. That said, owl attacks on dogs are rare. Owls will only target prey they think is small enough to carry away. Nineteen owl species are native to the US.

What does it mean if an owl just stares at you? ›

It is also thought that the owl is a sign of a good outcome during an upcoming venture. If the owl is staring at you, it's an indication that someone from your business or someone in your personal life respects you, while also valuing the views you hold and the wisdom you possess.

What does it mean when an owl sits near you? ›

"Owls symbolize inner wisdom, change, transformation, intuitive development, good luck, and self-actualization," says Charlotte Kirsten, M.A., a cultural symbolism expert and founder of Typically Topical. Some people wonder, is an owl a good omen? The answer depends on who you ask and the culture you're living in.

What does it mean if an owl flies above you? ›

An owl in flight crossing

There's nothing more natural than a bird in flight. They are at home when soaring through the air and are natural symbols of freedom and independence. As the owl flies, it symbolizes your need for a new perspective on things.

How do you keep owls away? ›

There are a number of things you can try; we recommend utilizing more than one method for the most success.
  1. Owl decoys or a scarecrow.
  2. Keep your livestock and pets protected.
  3. Protect small birds with an extra cover or caged feeders.
  4. Use repellent devices to deter them.
Feb 2, 2023

How many pounds can a owl pick up? ›

Great horned owls are skilled predators, but their culinary tastes run to rodents, birds, snakes, rabbits and insects. Their lifting capacity is about five pounds.

What brings owls to your yard? ›

Thus, having trees in your yard is a good way to attract owls. As long as they do not pose a threat to your home, avoid removing trees from your yard. Trees provide critical habitat for owls and other wildlife. Most species of owl use trees and branches to roost, nest, and hunt on a daily basis.

Why do owls hoot at 3am? ›

Primarily the nighttime hooting is a territorial claim notifying intruders they are in the owl's territory. Hoots can also signal to other owls that there is danger such as a predator close by, or it might be mated pairs communicating.

What are owls scared off? ›

Scaring owls is another way to deter these birds of prey. You can do this by making noise at dusk. Loud talking, yelling, shouting, and clapping will make enough noise to keep owls away. Things like lawnmowers, weed eaters, and chainsaws are owl deterrents.

What happens when you see an owl? ›

Owls are associated with supernatural powers, and some individuals believe that seeing an owl at night is a sign of good luck. If you happen to see an owl at night, it could be a sign of spiritual guidance, protection, and wisdom.

What happens if a owl bites you? ›

Their talons certainly may cause minor injuries if they get it in their mind to attack an unsuspecting passerby, but even the fiercest attacks rarely, if ever, result in death. Owls that do attack usually target the head, so the most common injuries from owl attacks are deep lacerations to the scalp.

Do owls let humans pet them? ›

If the owl is imprinted on humans, it will expect the person it perceives to be its mate to hoot with them regularly. 7. Most owls don't like to be petted and cuddled. Captive owls still retain their natural instincts, and traditional "petting" doesn't fit into the owl scheme of things for many species.

Why do owls hoot at night? ›

Primarily the nighttime hooting is a territorial claim notifying intruders they are in the owl's territory. Hoots can also signal to other owls that there is danger such as a predator close by, or it might be mated pairs communicating.


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