How Long Do Owls Live (And Why)?

Exact Answer: 20 Years

Owls are one of the most fascinating birds for most people. They are even treated as Goddesses’ accompanying birds in Hinduism and are associated with several other parables and stories all over the world. Owls are not very friendly and are regarded as solitary birds for the same reason.

Owls are nocturnal birds implying that that venture out of their nights mostly at night for feeding. They are very sensitive to light and use echo to hunt and feed on small birds and insects. Owls are characterized by light feathers which help them in silent flight, binaural hearing and have a broad and sharp head.


How Long Do Owls Live?

Species Of OwlLife Expectancy In WildLife Expectancy in Captivity
Barn Owl5 years20 years
Barred Owl10 years20 years
Boreal Owl10 years15 years
Burrowing Owl9 years12 years
Eastern Screech Owl10 years13 years
Elf Owl5 years15 years
Flammulated Owl7 years13 years
Great Gray Owl12 years26 years
Great Horned Owl14 years30 years
Northern Hawk Owl5 years10 years
Northern Pygmy-Owl3 years5 years
Northern Saw-whet Owl7 years14 years
Long-Eared Owl14 years8 years
Short-Eared Owl10 years16 years
Snowy Owl10 years30 years

Over two hundred different species of owls are known to humankind now. All the different species differ from one another in terms of their life expectancy. This makes it quite impossible to list life expectancy in a single sentence.

However, a person can have a look at all the major species of owls to infer the general life expectancy of the bird. Talking about the general life expectancy of owls, the Great-horned Owl has the longest expected life of about fourteen years in the wild and thirty years in captivity. On the contrary, the Northern Pygmy Owl has the shortest expected life of about three years when in the wild and five years when in captivity.

All other species of owl have their expected lifespan in the range of 10 to 20 years. Barred owl, Burrowing owl and Boreal owl are the major species to have their life expectancy in this range.

Why Do Owls Live That Long?

Owls have probably the largest life expectancy period as compared to any other bird. If a person gifts a newborn owl to a newborn human child, it is very probable that the owl would still be alive even when the child grows to be an adult. This perfectly demonstrates the versatility and agility of this special bird.

The life expectancy of each species of owl depends on a number of factors. Each owl species has its own life cycle influenced by its own set of factors. They are quite similar in looks, yet quite different in lifestyle.

A few important factors which help owls to thrive or hinder their life are their size, diet, habitat and their ecosystem of natural predators. Size is one of the important determinants of the life expectancy of a bird. Generally, the larger the size of the owl, the longer it breathes.

Owls are carnivores implying that the meat from other creatures forms their diet. However, certain situations may arise like hunger or human interference which might cause them to have a herbivore or omnivore diet. This has the capability of negatively impacting the health of the bird and might shorten its life expectancy.

At the same time, the habitat or the natural surroundings of the bird also has control over the life cycle of an Owl. Moreover, these birds are surrounded by a number of predators like humans or animals which might pose a threat to their life. These conditions, depending upon how favourable they are, limit or help the growth of Owls.


Owls are beautiful birds that are also famous partly owing to the number of stories around the bird. There are over two hundred species of owl spread across all the major six continents. They have an average life expectancy of twenty years, although, some can live for as long as thirty years.

The life expectancy of owls is influenced by a number of factors. The most important factors surrounding these are the size of the bird, its habitat and diet.


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Hi! I'm Nidhi.

Here at the EHL, it's all about delicious, easy recipes for casual entertaining. So come and join me at the beach, relax and enjoy the food.

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