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Owl Facts: Barn Owl food chain

Barn Owls are birds of prey – specialised hunters at the top of the food chain, which means that they need to eat prey animals to survive.

Prey animals – mainly small mammals – eat other smaller creatures or plants, seeds and fruits.

Plants get their energy from the sun, and from rain water, air and soil.

This sequence of living things, each depending upon the other for food, is called a food chain and is part of a much more complex food web.

What do Barn Owls eat?

In the UK Barn Owls hunt in open rough grassland, for small mammals (warm blooded furry animals) mainly Field Voles, Wood Mice, and shrews. Sometimes, Barn Owls eat rats and small birds and even frogs.

Barn Owls are found in many countries around the world, where often they eat a much wider variety of prey including reptiles and large insects.

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What does a Barn Owl’s prey eat?

Field Voles eat grasses and other plant material.

Wood Mice eat mostly berries, nuts, seeds, fungi, worms and insects.

Shrews are small predators and eat worms, beetles and other insects.

Rats can eat almost anything but will often eat foods that farmers provide for other animals.

How do plants get their food?

Plants absorb some of their food through their roots, which may come from decayed plants and animals in the soil. Green plants produce food in their leaves, by using sunlight in a chemical reaction called photosynthesis. Sun, rain and soil are the basic sources of energy for the growth of plants, and are nearly always at the start of a food chain.

Does anything eat Barn Owls?

Barn Owls do not have many enemies in the UK – but sometimes they are prey for another predator. Buzzards and goshawks have been known to eat Barn Owls – and a hungry fox will get lucky now & then. Very young, sick or injured owls are more likely to get eaten by a predator. 

The predators are controlled by the prey!

You might think that if there are lots of predators (hawks and foxes as well as owls) eating small mammals, then there will be fewer small mammals (the predators are controlling the prey) – but actually it’s the other way round – if there’s less prey then there will be fewer predators (the prey control the predators!). People can help by making sure that there is plenty of good habitat for small mammals to live in such as rough grassland for voles.

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