Can Owls Attack Humans? (3 Things To Know)

by Alex Kountry
Updated on

Owls have the capacity to attack humans and it is recorded that owls have attacked humans for several reasons.

An owl could attack you in a course to defend what is theirs, be it their territory or partner, or even their offspring.

Usually, joggers and hikers at night are highly likely of getting attacked by owls.

It Is extremely rare for you to hear that an owl attacked a human and kills that human, owls often don’t injure humans during attacks.

There are a lot of things to be known about owls attacking humans or the aggressive nature of owls, and this is what we’re going to explore in this article, stick with us and enjoy.

Are owls aggressive?

Can Owls Attack Humans

Owls are aggressive birds, they are birds of prey which means that they hunt and eat flesh.

They are predators so a certain level of aggressiveness and violence is necessary for this.

However, because of how strategic owls are they don’t just attack anyhow, there’s usually a solid reason before you see an owl attack.

Owls become aggressive toward humans and other animals when they feel threatened.

The most aggressive of all owl species is the Great Horned Owl, this aggressive owl is sometimes referred to as “the Tiger in the night”.

It is so fierce and aggressive that it kills and eats other species of owls.

Do owls attack humans?

Owls do not ordinarily attack humans but there are situations where owls have been known to attack humans. These situations include.

  • Defending their territory:
  • Defending their young offspring:
  • Defending their nest:

Generally, it could be said that owls do not attack humans except in special circumstances.

Owls are usually scared of humans so they would rather fly away when faced with a human instead of attacking humans, but that doesn’t mean in those rare circumstances owls do not attack humans.

The owls that would readily attack humans that trespass their territory include the bigger owls such as Eagle owls, the great gray owls, and great horned owls.

For the smaller birds, it is strategic for them to fly away when faced by human intruders because such would not be to their advantage as the human could kill them.

If you are faced with this kind of situation, would it not make more strategic sense to flee with your life instead of hazarding an almost certain death?

Related: Here is an article I wrote on why owls are thought of as wise birds

Do owls attack their owners?

Owls are mostly wild birds, although there are domesticated owls; they don’t attack their owners.

This sweeping generalization does not apply in every situation because there are situations that owls may attack their owners just like most predatory birds will.

Sometimes what owners of owls interpret as an attack is in fact show of affection.

An owl who has been trained or domesticated from when it was a nestling could show its affection for an owner by thinking of the owner as its mate therefore, the owl could latch onto the owner’s arm or head or any other part of the body and seek to mate with that part of the owner’s body.

This could easily be interpreted as an attack by a human that doesn’t understand much about owls.

Because owls have long and sharp talons no matter how benign they latch onto any part of your body, it would hurt and could very well seem like an attack. 

This does not happen often though.

Has anyone been killed by an owl?

Perhaps a very few persons have been killed by owls but there is only one incident that has been recorded.

In 2001 a barred owl was said to be responsible for the death of one Kathleen Peterson.

This happened in North Carolina, although at the end of the day, about 2 years after her death, her husband was convicted of murder.

It is said that owls are the only predatory bird that has killed any human before.

Also check out this article I wrote on owls and hawks living together

What does it mean when an owl tries to attack you?

Different sets of people ascribe different things to an attempted attack by an owl.

Generally, it means you were probably in the owls’ territory, the owl felt threatened by you or it was protecting something.

However, there are specifics we are going to discuss below.

  • Defending: when an owl tries to attack you it could simply mean that the owl was defending itself or its offspring within its territory. You might not know that the place you are walking or jogging through is the territory of an owl.
  • Evil: some cultures interpret when an owl tries to attack you to mean evil is coming your way. Because owls are such mysterious birds that are attached to the night and darkness, it is not unimaginable that some cultures will always believe that they symbolize evil and darkness, and death.
  • wisdom and strength: just like some cultures believe when an owl tries to attack it forebodes evil, other cultures believe it is a sign of strength and wisdom coming your way.

Whatever you ascribe to when an owl attacks you is greatly dependent on your personal beliefs.

How do you stop an owl attack?

It is quite simple to stop an owl attack, you should wave your hand as frantically as possible when the owl attacks in a bid to chase it away.

This is very effective when an owl has already started attacking you, we know that in that situation it might be hard to think of a strategy to stop the attack so this is quite effective.

You could also leave the territory of the owl, if an owl attacks you at a specific point seek to distance yourself from that location.

Because owls are endangered and protected by federal law in the US you cannot kill them in a bid to prevent an attack so you have to be smart about how to stop an ongoing attack.

Do owls attack humans at night?

Most owls are active at night, this is when they hunt, eat and do many activities that other creatures do during the day.

Therefore, owls do attack humans at night. If you encroach the territory of owls at night and they feel threatened they will attack you or flee.

Owls mostly attack humans in defense of themselves.

This does not mean owls do not attack in the day, not all owls are nocturnal.

The attack of an owl can leave a victim injured and bleeding.

The incidents of owl attacks increase as humans convert more of the owl’s natural habitat into cities and towns.

The chances of owl attack increase when they are in mating season.

Do barn owls attack humans?

Barn owls are about the safest owl species out there, they don’t attack humans, or rather; there is no record of a barn owl ever attacking a human.

This species of owls are very safe to be around. If they feel threatened they would rather fly away than attack.

It is worthy of note that even though barn owls are not aggressive they might attack you if you push them to the corner.

Of course, this is true for every animal, no matter how benign they might be.

We would advise that you do not push any owl to the point that they would not have any other option but to attack you.


We hope that with what we have explored so far you will be better equipped to handle owls and be safe from their attacks.

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About the author

Alex Kountry

Alex Kountry is the founder of HayFarmGuy and has been a backyard farmer for over 10 years. Since then he has decided to write helpful articles that will help you become a better backyard farmer and know what to do. He also loves to play tennis and read books


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