How Much Weight Can an Owl Carry? Get the Facts Here!


Written by

Clinton Atkins



George Dukes

how much weight can an owl carry

How much weight can an owl carry? These nocturnal birds can take up to approximately 5 pounds! This can vary depending on the size of the owl and the situation. 

Besides, each owl species has a different weight capacity. You may have more questions about this topic. We have more information about these incredible birds of prey. Let’s get on to it.

How Much Weight Can An Owl Carry?


The weight an owl can carry differs depending on several factors. For example, a large owl can carry heavier prey with their huge build. The bigger the owl and the more powerful its wings are, the heavier the weight it can carry.

When in flight, owls can opt for smaller prey to ensure a smooth trip mid-air. Favorable wind conditions and the flight technique significantly affect the bird’s ability to carry more weight. 

Can an Owl Carry More Than Its Body Weight?

Not all species. There are only a few recorded cases where an owl carried preys heavier than them. Even for those species, it does not usually happen.

What is the Biggest Weight an Owl Can Carry?


A Great Horned Owl can carry up to 9 pounds. Their sizable build, powerful wings, and heavyweight allow them to lift considerably large prey.

They usually hunt and carry prey weighing 5 pounds, but on some occasions, Great Horned Owls are capable and willing to take on larger animals beyond their weight. This owl species is known to have one of the most diverse prey profiles for any bird of prey in the United States.

Read more: How much weight can a hawk and a eagle carry?

Can an Owl Take a Small Dog?


Can an owl pick up a small dog? Yes, it is a possible scenario, but it rarely happens. Larger owl species, such as the Great Horned owl, can carry a puppy weighing less than 8 pounds. Northern Goshawks and Red-tailed Hawks are other birds of prey that can attack or catch a small dog or pet.

Owls are equipped with extraordinary strength and agility. But their capability of carrying their prey will depend on their weight, flight technique, and environmental conditions. In this table, we have a side-by-side look at how some of the most common owl species differ from one another.

Owl Sub-Species Size Physical Characteristics Weight Range
Great Horned Owl Large-sized They are known for cat-like yellow eyes and ear tufts. But their color tone can differ for each region, from dark to gray and almost white. Between 35.2 and 60.8 ounces (2.2-3.8 lbs)
Barred Owl Large-sized This hoot owl has white and brown speckled plumage. The horizontal and vertical bars stand true to the owl’s name. They are medium and length but are considered large for their build. 20.8 to 28.8 ounces (1.3-1.8 lbs) for males and 28 to 40 ounces (1.75-2.5 lbs) for females
Spotted Owl Medium-sized The notable facial disks forming an X, white spots, brown eyes, and dark brown plumage makes Spotted Owl recognizable in an instant. Between 17.6 and 24.7 ounces (1.1-1.5 lbs) Females weigh 10% to 20% more than males.
Eastern Screech Owl Small-sized This screech owl is robin-sized with a thick build and a large head that hides its neck. They have reddish-brown and gray feathers with patterns that help them in camouflaging themselves. On average, males weigh 5.6 ounces (0.37 lb) and females 6.8 ounces (0.43 lbs)
Long-Eared Owl Medium-sized The long ear tufts, slender bodies, and narrow facial disks make this species easily recognizable. They have dark plumage with detailed patterns in orange, black, and brown. Males weigh between 5.6 to 11.6 ounces (0.35-0.73 lb), while females weigh approximately 6.3 to 15.3 ounces (0.39-0.96 lb)
Snowy Owl Large-sized This owl has yellow eyes and is mostly white with some specks of black and brown. Males are paler than females. They have bulky bodies that appear wider when they’re sitting. Between 38.4 to 70.4 ounces (2.4-4.4 lbs)
Barn Owl Medium-sized You’ve probably seen this owl white all over during the night. But during the day, you can see their pale faces, dark eyes, and buff-gray feathers. Their curved wings contribute to their special flight style. Males are approximately 16.58 ounces (1.03 lbs) while females are 20.11 ounces (1.26 lbs)
Great Grey Owl Large-sized This giant owl with their big head and wide face is also among the tallest. They have silver and gray patterns, yellow beaks, and concentric eye circles. Males’ average weight is 35.73 ounces (2.2 lbs) and 45.5 ounces (2.8 lbs) for females.
Eurasian Eagle Owl Large-sized Sometimes called eagle owl, this species has unique ear tufts, orange eyes, white throat and chin, and black bill and feet. Their plumage is a combination of brown-black and cream-grey patterns and spots. Males weigh between 52.9 to 101.9 ounces (3.3–6.6 lbs) while females are between 61.7 to 148.2 ounces ( 3.9–9.3 lbs).

Frequently Asked Questions


Do barn owls attack humans?

There is no record of a barn owl attacking a human. Thus, many assumed they were a safe owl species to be around. But this does not mean they will never attack a human, ever.

Most owls can be aggressive but don’t usually attack humans and prefer to stay away from people. But there are a few documented cases where they’ll fearlessly assault a human unless they are:

  • Defending their territories
  • Protecting their younglings
  • Safeguarding their nests

Can an owl pick up a 20-pound dog?

No, it is not possible. Can an owl pick up a 10 lb dog? Still, the answer is no. This weight is too much for an owl to carry, even the largest species such as the Eurasian Eagle Owl or the Great Horned Owl. It will be difficult for them to fly and maintain their balance. They will eventually let go of their heavy prey as their hold loosens.

How many pounds can a Red-Tailed Hawk carry?

The heaviest weight a hawk carries in its talons is five pounds. It is possible for Red-Tailed Hawks to carry any prey under five pounds, including small dogs and cats within the said weight range.

However, this will depend on the size of the hawk and its weight. Hawks cannot carry anything that weighs more than them.

Are owls dangerous?

Yes. These birds are fearsome predators with sharp talons that can cause serious injuries and deep wounds. They won’t back down against large predators and even humans, especially if they feel you are a threat to their safety, nest, and territory.

How far can an owl turn its head?

Owls can turn their heads up to 270 degrees. This exorcist-like skill is displayed when owls check their surroundings or follow a moving object or prey. Since their eye sockets are fixed in place, owls cannot rotate their eyeballs, so they have to extend their necks.

Do Great Horned Owl attacks cat?

Yes, in rare instances, you can witness a Great Horned Owl picking up cat. This owl species is one of the largest owls alongside the Eurasian Eagle Owl and Snowy Owl, which are considered owls carrying cat. 

Cats are not part of an owl’s usual diet, but sometimes these birds become starved enough and turn to small cats for food. To avoid your feline pets being caught up in this situation, keep them inside your home or have them leashed when outside, and never leave them unattended.


Knowing the answer to how much weight can an owl carry makes us realize the amazing capabilities of these birds. They are more than just round-eyed birds who can rotate their heads at nearly 360 degrees. Owls are impressive hunters that can carry surprising weights.

Did you learn a lot about owls from this article? We hope you had a great time reading this! If you witnessed an owl-picking-up-prey situation or experienced an owl attack, share your experience with us. You can also impart additional facts you know about these amazing birds in the comment section.

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