How Long Do Owls Live? What You Should Know About Owning An Owl

Anusuya Mukherjee
Oct 23, 2023 By Anusuya Mukherjee
Originally Published on Nov 05, 2021
Flying Grey Horned Owl.
Age: 3-18
Read time: 8.0 Min

Owls are curious creatures, and we have all felt like owning them as a pet, just as we have seen in 'Harry Potter'.

As we have seen, Harry Potter's pet is a snowy owl who is very calm and composed, easy to maintain, who can live in a cage and will sometimes fly. All this seems so beautiful, right?

But there is a whole different image of how owls are in real life and how to manage or care for them. In the following article, we will learn more about how long owls live, the different types of species, their lifespans, and what contributes to their lifespan. We will also understand an owl's life, survival needs, mortality, and environment. We will also see and know about one of the most popular owls (barn owls) and also know about owls in general.

After reading all about the life of owls and the longest-living snowy owls, do check why do owls hoot and baby bird food.

What is the average lifespan of a barn owl?

Every living creature on Earth will eventually age, even human beings! The average lifespan of each creature will vary. Animals, such as birds, have a specific average lifespan.

Let us look into one of the species of living beings today: the barn owl. According to 'The Spruce', there is an average of around 225 species of adult owls. Barn owls are among them. Barn owls are from the Tyto genus. Their scientific name is known as Tyto alba. They have large heart-shaped faces and are usually found in the Chesapeake region. The average lifespan of barn owls is roughly around two to four years. Though some barn owls live up to an average of 20 years, depending on their habitat, survival, and environment. Some barn owls have lived up to an average age of 15 years. When it comes to barn owls, there have been studies and observations that show that most barn owls die young and near trees.

There are many factors as to why these predators have a shorter lifespan even though these animals can live much longer despite early struggles. These could be that they are not satisfying their basic needs, they have a poor habitat, there is too much pollution, and they suffer from starvation. The longest living owl is the great horned owl, with an average life span of 27 years.

What is the lifespan of an owl?

Owls are very interesting creatures, and most of the time, they mate for life. When it comes to owls, there are around 225 species making up the owl population. Each species differs from others based on how they adapt to life, their size, their habitat, food, and their characteristics. Studies have shown that owls who live in the wild have a life expectancy of around a decade, whereas owls who live in an inside environment or in captivity live for more than 20 years. Compared to other species such as cats and dogs and insects, these pets have a long lifespan.

Owls tend to live much longer compared to other species, and there could be various other contributing factors that give them a good long lifespan. These contributing factors could be depending on their physiology and biological functions, a good natural habitat, availability of food, predators, and pollution. Spotted owls are said to have a lifespan of 15 or more years if they live in captivity and 15 years if they live in the wild. The western screech owl is said to have a life expectancy of 19 years in captivity and much less in the wild. The great grey owl is said to live around 27 years in captivity and snowy owls live around 28 years in captivity. The longest living owl, a great horned owl, is said to have lived for more than 28 years in captivity.  The animal will live around 13-15 years if it lives in the wild. The record for America's great horned owl lifespan is 28 years. Great horned owls are found in North America. This species of owl is also one of the largest owls. They get their name because of their physical features such as ears that are shaped like horns. The great horned owls are a very intimidating species. This is also one of the third-largest owls in North America.

Why is barn owl mortality important?

So far, we spoke about the lifespan of owls and the average lifespan of a barn owl. We also came across some factors that contribute to their lifespan. Now let us try to understand and see how knowing about their lifespan is so important, in fact, a serious concern. As part of our ecosystem, in order to co-exist in balance and in harmony, it is important for all living creatures to live in the world they deserve to live in.

There are various factors that lead to an owl's death. It could be unexpected or accidental and also due to human errors. One such factor is pollution or natural calamities which can destroy their nesting. Pollution could also affect their health negatively. The second is a lack of food or resources to feed themselves or their young. This leads to one of the major reasons why a barn owl dies unexpectedly due to starvation. The third one could be caused by accidents such as being hit by cars, trains and other big vehicles. Another reason could be due to overhead wires, or land erosion. The last reason is getting hunted by their predators. Anything that attacks them could also be the reason why a barn owl dies and they are slowly going extinct.

Beautiful barn owl amidst pink flowers.

Wild Vs Captive Owl Lifespan

When it comes to this particular factor, an owl's lifespan depends on where the owl lives: in the wild or in captivity. As mentioned before, owls have shorter lifespans when they live in the wild, whereas these burrowing birds have much longer lifespans and longevity after their capture. Sounds strange right? We would usually think that living in the wild in their natural habitat should be enough, and would give owls longer lifespans than life after capture. But the reality is the opposite.

Let us see more of this and understand how and why this is the case. Let us first look into the 'wild' and 'captive' parts. When it comes to living in the wild, our natural assumptions could sometimes be that everything necessary for owls is available, such as food and shelter. But it is not the case. There are many reasons why owls have a shorter lifespan if these burrowing animals live in the wild during winter. These factors are the availability of food, proper shelter, interactions with humans, pollution and natural disasters, diseases, and of course their predators. Due to all these factors, there is a higher potential of risk which could affect their lifespans. Whereas, when it comes to behavior in captivity, these burrowing birds are provided with food, care, shelter, and an environment where owls can be taken care of. Ornithologists (people who study birds) and researchers, based on the findings and observations, have been studying to understand everything about owls. So based on that, they will be able to provide such an environment to owls. Getting proper care based on their natural habitat is what contributes to them having a longer lifespan.

Species And Lifespan

Some species of owls are said to have a longer lifespan in general. Out of all these owl species, these are a few owls who have longer lifespans based on where they live (in the wild or in captivity). Now we know that there are around 225 species of owls. Each owl species differs from the other due to various factors such as their physical attributes, biological functions, behavioral characteristics, environment, and food.

Living conditions, including things like climate, food availability according to seasons, pollution, or imbalance in nature, can add to their lifespan. The great horned owl is said to be one of the third-largest owls in North America and is also known for its 28-year lifespan, which is longer than many other owl species.

Keeping An Owl Healthy

Owls are a complicated species when it comes to taking care or looking after them. As they are carnivorous birds who need their free space to roam around, they should be given food that satisfies their basic needs. When it comes to food, if you plan to give them normal food such as leafy vegetables, this could negatively affect their health. As per their natural diet as carnivorous creatures, they eat a wide variety of insects, small mammals, and amphibians. Let us look into this in detail.

Starting with food, if you keep owls as pets in your home, make sure to give them the necessary food that goes along with their diet. Since they are not living in the wild, make an environment that has a touch of nature so they feel close to living in a natural environment, and also give them free space to roam around. This doesn't restrict their movement, as they are birds, they would prefer to freely fly and roam around in that space. So build their environment by creating one or expanding the room and creating a natural environment that contains plants and trees. Additionally, keep the environment healthy. For a living being, a healthy environment is one of the factors that contribute to its long life.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for 'How long do owls live?' then why not take a look at 'Bird respiratory system', or 'Barred owl facts'?

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Written by Anusuya Mukherjee

Bachelor of Arts and Law specializing in Political Science and Intellectual Property Rights

Anusuya Mukherjee picture

Anusuya MukherjeeBachelor of Arts and Law specializing in Political Science and Intellectual Property Rights

With a wealth of international experience spanning Europe, Africa, North America, and the Middle East, Anusuya brings a unique perspective to her work as a Content Assistant and Content Updating Coordinator. She holds a law degree from India and has practiced law in India and Kuwait. Anusuya is a fan of rap music and enjoys a good cup of coffee in her free time. Currently, she is working on her novel, "Mr. Ivory Merchant".

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