How Long Do Owls Live (Explained)

How Long Do Owls Live

Owls truly are fascinating creatures! With their large, hypnotic eyes and silent flight, they’re the embodiment of nocturnal majesty. Their uncanny ability to swivel their heads almost 360 degrees is amazing. Plus, they play a crucial role in controlling pests, helping to maintain a balanced ecosystem. Owls, in their mysterious allure and undeniable charm, invite us to learn more about nature’s wonders, reminding us of the diversity and beauty that the animal kingdom holds.

How Long Do Owls Live

The answer could be more straightforward because it largely depends on the species. Let’s start with the smaller ones, like the Screech Owl or the Elf Owl. Typically, their lifespan ranges from 3 to 5 years in the wild. But remember, that’s on average, so some may live shorter or longer lives depending on predators, food availability, and overall health.

On the other end of the spectrum, we’ve got larger owls like the Great Horned owl. Believe it or not, these majestic creatures can live up to 13 years in the wild. Impressive, right? And that’s not even the pinnacle of owl longevity!

Enter the Eurasian Eagle-owl and the Snowy owl. These guys are the real veterans of the owl world. They can live up to 20 years or more in the wild in optimal conditions. It’s mind-blowing to think about all the moonlit nights they’ve seen!

What happens when we bring owls into captivity, where they’re safe from predators and have a steady food supply? Well, their lifespan can increase significantly. Some species have been recorded to live up to 50 years in zoos and sanctuaries. That’s right – 50 years! That’s a testament to how much conditions influence an owl’s lifespan.

Owl Lifespan in Captivity Vs Wild

Starting with the wild, it’s a bit of a jungle for owls (pun intended!). They’re up against the elements, natural predators, food scarcity, and the impact of human activities. Plus, they have to face diseases without a trusty vet. In this setting, survival of the fittest and life can be tough.

Take the Barn Owl, for instance. In the wild, they often live for about four years. However, some still need to pass their first year due to the harsh realities of life in the wild. But that’s not to say it’s all doom and gloom. Some owls, like the Eurasian Eagle-owl, can live in the wild to the ripe old age of 20 years!

Now, let’s flip the coin and look at owls in captivity. In a controlled environment like a zoo or a sanctuary, owls have access to regular meals and medical care and don’t have to worry about predators. The result? They tend to live significantly longer.

Remember the Barn Owl from earlier? In captivity, they can live up to 20 years or more. That’s a stark difference from their typical four years in the wild. Larger owls, like the Great Horned Owl, have been known to reach the grand old age of 50 years in captivity. Now that’s something to hoot about!

Here’s a Chart of Owl Lifespan in Captivity Vs Wild

Owl SpeciesLifespan in CaptivityLifespan in Wild
Barn OwlUp to 20 years2-5 years
Great Horned OwlUp to 50 years5-15 years
Snowy OwlUp to 35 years9-15 years
Barred OwlUp to 23 years5-10 years
Eastern Screech OwlUp to 20 years3-7 years
Northern Saw-whet OwlUp to 16 years4-7 years
Elf OwlUp to 15 years3-5 years
Eurasian Eagle OwlUp to 60 years10-20 years
Spotted OwlUp to 21 years5-9 years
Burrowing OwlUp to 10 years6-8 years
Tawny OwlUp to 27 years5-10 years
Spectacled OwlUp to 35 years5-10 years
Long-Eared OwlUp to 27 years4-8 years
Short-Eared OwlUp to 10 years3-5 years
Little OwlUp to 15 years3-6 years
Ural OwlUp to 18 years8-10 years
Boreal OwlUp to 16 years7-10 years
Northern Hawk OwlUp to 20 years10-15 years
African Scops OwlUp to 15 years3-5 years
Great Grey OwlUp to 40 years8-15 years
Oriental Bay OwlUp to 20 years5-10 years
Western Screech OwlUp to 20 years3-7 years
Marsh OwlUp to 15 years5-10 years
Striped OwlUp to 25 years5-10 years
Brown Wood OwlUp to 30 years5-10 years
Indian Eagle OwlUp to 35 years10-15 years
Mottled Wood OwlUp to 20 years5-10 years
Verreaux’s Eagle OwlUp to 40 years10-15 years
Spotted Wood OwlUp to 30 years5-10 years
Ferruginous Pygmy OwlUp to 12 years3-5 years
Pearl-Spotted OwletUp to 15 years5-10 years
Eastern Grass OwlUp to 20 years5-10 years
Northern Pygmy OwlUp to 12 years3-6 years
MoreporkUp to 30 years6-10 years
Powerful OwlUp to 25 years10-15 years
Lesser Sooty OwlUp to 20 years6-10 years
Rufous OwlUp to 25 years10-15 years
Southern BoobookUp to 25 years5-10 years
Cape Eagle OwlUp to 40 years10-15 years
Collared Scops OwlUp to 15 years5-10 years

Factors Affecting Owl Lifespan

Natural Predators

When we think about owls, we often picture them as the top predators of the night, right? However, they, too, have their own set of foes. Predators like larger owls, eagles, and even some mammals such as raccoons can threaten their survival, especially for younger and smaller owls. Predation pressure can drastically reduce their lifespan, making it one of the crucial factors affecting how long they live. The wild is a game of survival!


Like any living creature, owls are susceptible to diseases that can significantly shorten their lifespan. Avian diseases such as West Nile Virus, avian pox, and various parasitic infections can afflict owls. In the wild, these diseases can prove fatal without the benefits of veterinary care. Regular health checks in captivity can mitigate these risks, often leading to a longer life for our owl friends.

Food Supply

Owls’ dietary needs largely depend on small mammals, insects, and birds. An abundant food supply means owls can easily find nourishment, leading to healthier lives and a longer lifespan. However, when food becomes scarce, it can be tough out there. Owls may struggle to find enough food, leading to malnutrition and a weakened immune system. This can make them more susceptible to diseases and other survival threats, impacting their lifespan.


Owls need a safe and suitable habitat for roosting, nesting, and hunting. Forests, wetlands, grasslands, and even deserts are homes for different owl species. However, habitat destruction due to deforestation, urban development, or climate change can reduce the availability of safe spaces for owls, impacting their survival rates and, subsequently, their lifespan. Preserving these natural habitats is crucial for the longevity of these captivating creatures.

Human Interaction

Unfortunately, our actions as humans can have detrimental effects on owls’ lifespans. Activities such as hunting, trapping, or unintentional harm like road accidents can lead to premature death. Plus, pollution, especially the use of pesticides, can poison owls and their prey, leading to a decline in owl populations. Understanding these impacts is essential to work towards a more sustainable co-existence, one where owls can live their longest, healthiest lives.

How long can owls live without food?

You might be surprised to learn that owls, like most birds, have a super-fast metabolism. This helps them convert food into energy quickly. But it also means they can only go along with a meal. A healthy adult owl might survive for 2 to 3 days without food. But here’s the kicker: this varies greatly depending on the owl’s size, species, and overall health. Baby owls, or owlets, have it a bit tougher. They typically need feeding several times a day.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *