The cycle of life and death in the wild is one that fascinates many people. Of course, there are the definite predators and the definite prey. For example, the shark is going to be the predator of the water while flies are typically going to always be prey to insect-feeding animals.
However, there are many animals that fit into a grey space between these two categories. There are some animals that are both predators and prey to many major animals in the food chain.
A good example of this are owls. Owls are known for their ability to hunt small rodents in the dark of night, silently swooping down to nab their catches. With that being said, there are also quite a few animals that will hunt down an owl as well. The question then becomes a matter of who eats the owl if the owl is considered one of the stronger predators of the night?
One of the most common predators that one will encounter is going to be the coyote. Coyotes are fairly well-known for eating just about anything it can get its paws on. Some people think of coyotes as a higher-class raccoon. You won’t necessarily find a coyote digging through your trash, but they are not picky about what they can eat.
With an animal as undiscriminating about food as the coyote, one would think that they would be up for eating owls. The truth is that one would be correct in thinking this.
Coyotes and Owls
More often than not, coyotes and owls will coexist in the same environment. In some cases, they may even compete for the same prey of small rodents, especially during the spring when a coyote has to feed its young. This means that there will certainly be skirmishes that will leave both the coyote and the owl wounded, but the relationship between these two animals doesn’t just end there though.
As omnivores, coyotes have no problem hunting down other animals for food. They have a wide diet, ranging from seeds and bird eggs to roadkill and household pets to birds of prey. Owls, being birds of prey, are most certainly part of the last category. If a coyote has an opportunity to catch an owl for food, it certainly will, especially if the coyote is particularly hungry.
One of the reasons why coyotes do not regularly hunt owls is that coyotes are considered opportunistic omnivores and prefer to chase after prey on the ground. Because coyotes have evolved being able to get by on small mammals such as squirrels, fish, insects, and plants, they have not evolved to hunt down birds as well as other bird-hunting animals have. This means that a coyote is likely to choose another animal to eat over an owl, but if the opportunity to kill an owl arose, a coyote would make an effort to take it.
What Else Do Coyotes Eat?
Going back to the idea of coyotes being opportunistic omnivores, this description explains the method behind what coyotes will go after. The opportunistic descriptor means that coyotes will generally go after whatever is going to be the easiest for them, which will depend heavily on the environment and habitat of the coyote.
For coyotes that live closer to sources of fish-filled water, there’s a good chance that the coyote is going to get the majority of its food from the fish in the water and the plants surrounding the water. If a coyote lives in a more urban environment, it may prey on pets that are allowed outdoors, such as cats and smaller breeds of dog. It may also go after one’s garbage if it smells particularly interesting.
Coyotes who live near farmland will usually go after the livestock in question as well as some of the crops that may be growing in the area. Finally, coyotes that live in a forest will usually go after squirrels, moles, voles, and birds of prey as well as insects and fallen fruit that can be found in the forest.
As omnivores, they can eat pretty much anything and everything. During the spring, coyotes will hunt to feed their young, meaning that they will focus more on protein filled foods to help their young grow strong and fast. This means that more prey animals will be hunted during the spring and summer months, rather than plants.
During the late summer and early autumn, coyotes will begin to hunt other animals and will go after some plants. Here, the range of food that they can eat will broaden massively, going from garbage and roadkill to fish and feral pigs. In the later months of autumn, coyote scat has shown that they will eat more berries and fruits that bloom and are harvested around the season. It is believed that this is in preparation for winter.
What Hunts Owls?
Now that you know a little bit more about what your neighborhood coyotes eat, you may also begin to wonder what else may hunt owls. It should be said that, since owls are considered to be adept predators, they do not have a lot of superior predators that will hunt them down. In fact, most of the animals that will hunt owls will usually be on the same level of strong predator as the owl itself, with one exception.
An example of this is the fact that owls will compete with other birds of prey. Despite how strong owls tend to be, there are other birds of prey that may see owls as a tasty treat for themselves.
While it is impossible to know what goes on in an animal’s head, it is widely believed that most of the disputes seen between owls and other birds of prey is not for hunting so much as a territorial fight. This won’t stop birds of prey from eating an owl that they have defeated though. Eagles and hawks are the common contenders for an owl’s enemy.
In that same line of thinking, other owls are also going to be in the same position as birds of prey. Similarly, owls will not necessarily target other owls for the sake of food, but if an owl defeats another owl in a dispute of territory, it may decide to feast on its corpse. After all, to these carnivorous birds, meat is meat and it doesn’t always matter where that meat comes from.
Finally, the exception to the rule of most predators of an owl being on the same predatorial level: humans. People will often hunt owls for sport, given how agile and hard to spot most owls can be.
Obviously, most people do not hunt owls for the sake of food. The most common reasons why people will hunt owls include hunting for the sake of trophies, unintended environmental damage to habitats, and unintended automobile accidents.
In the sense that people are what cause environmental damage to forests where animals live, humans would be considered an owl’s biggest predator as many owls are displaced because of these actions. The same applies to automobile accidents, as when an owl lands to eat its prey on the road, a driver may not see it at night and run over it.
These actions aren’t purposeful for the sake of harming the owl specifically or hunting it down, but it still plays a major factor into the reality that an owl’s greatest predator may just be humans.