How Long Do Owls Live? (Owl Life Expectancy)

Tori Rhodes
Written by
Last update:

How long do owls live?

Owls are one of the most fascinating creatures on this planet. They are known for their beautiful plumage, raptor eyes and feathers, and most importantly, their ability to fly.

They are most often associated with mystery, magic, and wisdom. Because of these factors, owl is even an important symbol in many cultures.

Owls live a quiet life, most of them outdoors. There are two owls that are famous for being diurnal, these are the northern spotted owl and the northern pygmy owl.

There are others that are nocturnal, these are the barn owl, the great horned owl, and the Eastern screech owl.

Owls are divided into these two groups based on their activity patterns. Diurnal is an adjective used to describe animals that are more active during the day. These creatures are also known as crepuscular animals. Crepuscular is derived from an old Latin word meaning twilight.

Owls are exceptional hunters. They hunt small rodents, as they are the only ones that can make small prey like mice and voles feel threatened.

Some see owls only as a threat; however, they are also a powerful symbol. They are symbols of protection and good luck.

Owls lifespan is different between species

Smaller owls live longer on average; in the wild, some small owl species have been recorded to live 40 years or more.

Great horned owls have a 36-year lifespan on average.

Barred owls can live 32 years on average.

Typical lifespan of a barn owl is 27 years.

Large owls like the golden and eagle owls have shorter lifespans averaging 11 years only.

Owls live longer in the capture

Being nocturnal birds, owls are sensitive to light. This is probably one of the reasons for their short life span. However, compared to most birds, owls have a long lifespan and can live up to 25 years in captivity. The most common owl in captivity is the powerful owl that can live up to 44 years in captivity.

Under natural conditions, the Powerful owl lives up to 25 years. But the short lifespan of most other species of owls lies between 5-12 years.

This relatively long lifespan may be the reason why the largest amount of owl species in the world is found in the Americas, with more than 30 recognized species in the Americas while Europe only has 20/21 species, the majority of them being barn owls.

In captivity, however, an owl can live up to 38 years with the most common species being the Eurasian Eagle-owl that can live up to 34 years. Due to this prolonged life span, the black eagle-owl is the subject of many myths and legends in the Americas, Africa and Europe.

Fun fact: The oldest known owl is a great horned owl that lived to be over 28 but was banded at the age of 2 in the year 1963 and recaptured after the age of 42. The investigator, David W Morris, was shocked when he found him but realized the owl was the same bird as it had worn the same band since a baby.

Common reasons for the death of owls

A question that is often asked, is "How long do owls live?". In a natural habitat, the longest lifespan for an owl is 10 years, with the oldest recorded age of 16 years. But in captivity, the life of an owl is much longer.

A great horned owl can live for 20 years or more while the large owl breeds can live up to 25 years.

Adult owls and birds in general are vulnerable to death in the wild. However, there are some common reasons we find for the death of owls:

What is the oldest owl known?

The longest living owl known is a female Tama from Japan who lived for an amazing 50 years.

Owls that live in captivity have the potential to live up to decades. There’s a Spotted Owl in London Zoo clocked up to 43 years old.

As for wild owls, there are a few cases of owls living over 20 years, but there are also cases of owls dying at just a few months old.

That’s why it is hard to give a precise figure for the maximum possible life span of an owl. 12 years is a good average figure, but remember that it is just an estimate.

After all, no one knows who will stay longer, you or your pet owl.