Can You Legally Buy an Owl?
For How Much?

Wondering if you can keep the symbol of wisdom as a pet? Unfortunately, not only is it expensive, but it is also not allowed in multiple states. Read to find out more.

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Iñigo Navarro

November 21, 2021


Can You Legally Buy an Owl? For How Much? Thumbnail

What’s This Post About?

Owls are fascinating birds that immediately pique birders’ interest and pique their curiosity. Several people believe having an owl as a pet would be amusing, especially for those who have watched Harry Potter.

However, only a few have a genuine understanding of what it takes to care for one.

In most countries like the United States, keeping owls without proper authorization is unlawful. However, individuals can keep owls in certain countries after completing the requisite training and constructing the necessary facilities. The cost of an owl is above $3000, excluding any additional expenses.

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Can You Legally Buy an Owl?

In the United States, you can’t keep a snowy owl—or any other native owl—as a pet. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act gives them federal protection. According to the same regulation, you can’t even have one of its feathers without a permit from the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

Other countries like Japan and the United Kingdom allow people to buy owls legally. The Eurasian eagle-owl and the speckled owl are the most readily accessible exotic owl species that do not require permits in the United States.

Pet ownership regulations, however, differ from one state to another. So if you’re considering obtaining an owl as a pet, it’s always a brilliant idea to educate yourself with your state rules.

Some states forbid buying owls for domestic reasons and penalize; some permit it while others do not have a hard yes or no line.

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Here are a few states and their legal approach to keeping owls as pets:

Permissible Not Permissible Under Special Circumstances
Alabama Alaska Indiana
Delaware California Maine
Louisiana Connecticut Michigan
Minnesota Colorado Pennsylvania 
Nebraska Hawaii Texas
Nevada Iowa Idaho
Tennessee Massachusetts Vermont
Oregon    
Wyoming    

You might be wondering what the circumstances are in which some states allow owls, keep reading to find out.

  • In Idaho, for example, you can apply for permission to keep an owl as a pet if you can show that the bird will not pose a hazard to farming, cattle, or the environment.
  • In states including Indiana, Maine, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, eager owl owners must first get permission or certification before keeping one.
  • In Vermont, owls are only available for display or academic needs.
  • You can receive permission to keep one in Texas, but it is dependent on how destructive the owl is.

As you can see, the rules differ significantly from one state to the other. Therefore, the wisest way to go about it is to look up your state’s laws regarding rare or endangered birds.

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What Are Some Exceptions?

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act makes it unlawful to keep an owl as a pet in the United States.

As mentioned above, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act makes it unlawful to keep an owl as a pet in the United States, and only trained and licensed individuals may own them as adoptive caregivers in a rehabilitation center for academic reasons or as a breeding facility.

Some nations allow the use of specific species in falconry, albeit owls are rarely good falconry birds.

Even in cases, the person who has been granted permission to retain an owl does not necessarily “possess” the bird.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service maintains “ownership” of the owls and has the authority to reclaim them at any moment if the permit requirements are not satisfied.

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How Much Does an Owl Cost?

When purchasing an owl, look for one bred in captivity since they are easier to adjust to in a domestic environment. An owl may be bought in the United States for anywhere between $3,000 and $3,500.

The price of an owl is determined by several factors, including the owl’s age, gender, and breeder. Adopting an owl from a refuge is a more cost-effective choice. This might cost you at least roughly $800. This alternative would also need you to have all of the relevant papers.

DID YOU KNOW?

The rules in the United Kingdom, on the other hand, are different since certain owls may cost anything from $300 to $800 to adopt.

In addition to being an expensive purchase itself, the cost of rearing an owl is also relatively high. Here are a few things you would also be spending on if you decide to buy an owl.

Specialized Veterinarian

Your owl may contract diseases in confinement. While some illnesses are normal and may go away on their own after a while, significant situations will require the attention of a veterinarian.

A typical medical appointment for a dog or cat costs approximately $50. Still, owls may require the services of a skilled veterinarian, which may cost around $250 for each visit — and much more in case of emergency treatments.

Health Exams

You must also consider the cost of annual exams to ensure that your owl is in good health. Unlike other common pets, owls require a lot of attention.

Aside from looking for indicators of apparent health deterioration, an annual physical checkup and fecal test will help you determine if your owl is in good health.

Naturally, this will include spending for a specialized veterinarian and laboratory and testing expenses of $40 to $60.

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Owl Food

You can’t simply go to nearby pet shops and purchase bird seeds as you do for parrots and other omnivorous birds if you have a pet owl. Owls are carnivorous birds and have a different diet. 

Depending on size and species, mice, hamsters, and other rodents may be purchased at pet shops for $5 to $20.

Given that owls devour up to four ounces of food every day and that a typical mouse weighs an ounce, you’ll need to spend between $20 and $80 per day on their meals.

An alternative is to purchase frozen rodents. These mice have already been reared, murdered, washed, and refrigerated for use as pet food.

One benefit is that they are sold in bulk, so you can put these in the freezer and defrost them a few at a time when it’s time to feed.

PRO-TIP

Specialists recommend storing 3 months of food at a time.

Owl Cage

Due to its ability to fly, an owl will require a reasonably spacious cage with exposure to both indoor and outdoor locations to exercise.

A large aviary will be necessary, and it will need to be built of durable wire because the owl’s sharp claws will quickly turn a wooden cage into toothpicks.

The cost of constructing this structure and the perches and other essential housing units can easily exceed $1,000.

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DID YOU KNOW?

An owl’s cage is called a mew.

Owl Equipment

To follow the bird while it is hunting, owners will require tracking gear. The cost of this equipment might be as high as $1,500.

Owl Permits

If you reside in a state where owls are permissible, you may need a permit. In certain places, such as Mississippi, you must not only file for a license to possess an exotic animal legally, but you must also update it annually.

According to your area, this might be free or cost you a few dollars every year in renewals and other extra costs.

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Things You Must Know If You Want an Owl

Assuming you reside in a place where owning a pet owl is legal, the next question is whether or not you should acquire one given your present living circumstances and understanding of caring for these strange creatures.

It is best to know what you will be getting yourself into before making a decision.

Owls Require Space

To begin with, you cannot use, for instance, a parrot cage to keep your pet own in. Due to their requirements, they must at all times be housed in a spacious aviary with access to outdoors and indoor areas.

You must also provide access to a tidy bath pan. They regularly wash themselves to maintain their feathers as clean as possible.

You may think having an aviary is the solution to this problem, but that would greatly defeat the purpose of having an owl in the first place.

It’s challenging to interact with a bird that never comes inside and is placed in a vast outdoor aviary where the most you can hope for is a once-or-twice-daily visit.

Owls Have Special Dietary Needs

Another issue that makes keeping owls as pets practically difficult is their diet. Since owls are classified as prey birds, they have unique dietary requirements that cannot be addressed by giving them seeds, crackers, or fresh fruits and vegetables.

Owls are carnivorous animals that require small rodents such as mice, tiny rabbits, guinea pigs, quails, and young chickens that are commercially supplied. They should be refrigerated then defrosted before serving or fed live to suit their needs or complicated nutritional demands.

Owls Are Anti-Social Animals

A parrot’s ability to successfully adapt to a human household is due to its flock mindset. Since owls lack this mentality, they see everyone except the one bird they chose as their “partner” - as a rival or food and strike others on sight.

This can be a significant issue if you get ill or are otherwise unable to provide for your bird.

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Owls Are Messy Eaters

Owls are famous for being messy eaters. The eating entails ripping the prey apart to consume small portions, and this mess must be mopped up after each meal. Owls use their hearing and vision abilities for hunting tiny rodents in the wild.

DID YOU KNOW?

Many owls have varying-sized ear openings on their heads, enabling the brain to construct a three-dimensional aural picture of their environment.

Even in your house, an owl in a domestic situation will mimic that hunting urge and eat fiercely. An owl’s tendency to dig sharp claws into any source of food, even a human hand providing the meal, makes it deadly to anyone who isn’t experienced or skillful.

Owls Are Nocturnal Birds

While boisterous during specific periods of the day, domestic parrots are quiet during the dark hours of the night and hence do not bother neighbors.

Owls are, however, nocturnal, which means they are awake during the night. As a result, they make a lot of noise when they mingle and breed, and they’re at their loudest during the nighttime times, making you very unpopular amongst your neighbors.

Difficulty In Traveling

Having an owl as a pet will drastically reduce your travel opportunities. However, if you insist on having one, be prepared to stay at home. You won’t take the owl with you, especially since the United States requires permits every time you cross state lines.

If you choose to leave the owl at home, finding a sitter will not be easy for this creature. Some of the reasons for this are:

  • An owl requires the care of a skilled individual, and any average pet sitter will not work.
  • If you have a human-imprinted owl, they may be hostile toward anybody else who comes to care for them.
  • It is difficult to find a caregiver ready to defrost frozen rodents, feed them to a fatal owl, and clean up the gory mess.
  • Owls enjoy routine as well, so any interruption to that is quite distressing for them.

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Owl Requires Constant Care and Maintenance

Owls defecate all over the place. However, unlike parrot excrement, which is primarily vegetable-based, owl poop includes the waste of digested meat, which stinks.

In addition, an owl’s vomit pellets comprise unprocessed bones and feathers from the animal corpses they have just consumed.

All birds are sloppy, but owls are the filthiest of them all. Keeping an owl requires cleaning up feces, regurgitated pellets, feathers, and other trash left on the floor of your massive aviary regularly.

PRO-TIP

Owls are silent fliers because they must remain quiet to catch their prey. When your owl flies, and it creates whistling noises, it means it needs to be washed.

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Keep Reading!

The United States does not allow individuals to buy an owl, protecting them under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. There are certain exceptions where some states permit the purchase under exceptional circumstances.

Given how difficult it is to keep an owl as a pet, it is advisable to sponsor one by making a monetary gift to a local rehab facility.

You may come to see “your” owl whenever it’s suitable for you, and the maintenance and feeding will be handled by professionals who know what they’re doing.

Now that you know all about keeping owls as pets, read about what baby owls eat and how to take care of a baby owl.

What Do Baby Owls Eat? How To Take Care of a Baby Owl?

Baby owls eat mice, chicks, and insects, but they must be shredded. Read to learn more about how you can take care of owlets!

Iñigo Navarro Picture

By Iñigo Navarro

Bird Watching USA

My name is Inigo and I'm the the founder of Bird Watching USA! I started Bird Watching with My father-in-law many years ago, and I've become an addict to watching these beautiful creatures. I've learnt so much over about bird watching over the years that I want to share with the world everything I know about them!

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Iñigo Navarro Picture

Iñigo Navarro

Bird Watching USA

My name is Inigo and I'm the the founder of Bird Watching USA! I started Bird Watching with My father-in-law many years ago, and I've become an addict to watching these beautiful creatures. I've learnt so much over about bird watching over the years that I want to share with the world everything I know about them!

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