What do owls eat?

by Chris Anderson on September 23, 2020

Barn owls love voles. You’re likely to find vole bones when you dissect owl pellets. 

But have you ever wondered about voles themselves? What they look like, where they live, what they eat? 

Voles tend to be between 5 to 7 inches long with short tails and short legs. They are found in habitats like orchards, pastures, hay fields, hillsides – anywhere there is a lot of ground cover for them to find protection in


They live in North America, Europe and Asia. They are active day and night, all year round. Their life expectancy is around 3 to 6 months. There are 124 species of vole and 23 of those are native to the US. 

They are “semi-fossorial”. Fossorial means that an animal is adapted to digging and tends to live underground. So as semi-fossorial animals, they spend some time in burrows and some time above ground.

Owls can hear voles even under snow. Grab pellets here to see how many bones you can find! 

They eat mostly plant life: grass, seeds, roots, stems and leaves of plants. They will, however, eat insects or snails on occasion. 


Voles are protected as “nongame mammals”, meaning people are not allowed to hunt them, but they can be managed when they cause damage. This usually happens when they eat roots of plants underground or the bark off of trees. 


There are plenty of predators around that love to lend a hand in keeping their numbers down and their damage to a minimum! Hawks, owls, snakes, weasels, raccoons, foxes, opossums, and house cats are all threats to voles. 


See if you can find some voles in our owl pellets! Match what you’ve learned here to what you can discover in a pellet. Grab a 2 pack here or a 10 pack here!