Owls Eat a Lot of Anoles: Data from Dominica

An owl with a green anole.

A recent paper in the Caribbean Journal of Science on the diet of the Lesser Antillean barn owl on Dominica revealed that anoles, specifically the native species A. oculatus, are a very frequent prey item, constituting 193 of the 517 prey items. The authors note that owls are nocturnal and anoles are diurnal and proffer three explanations: 1. the predation occurs at dawn and dusk, when both species are normally active; 2. the anoles are active around lights at night; 3. the owls are catching the anoles while they sleep. We’ve discussed this topic before: owls are known to eat anoles in Cuba and many other places in the neotropics, and there’s the great photo re-posted below (original post here). As far as I’m aware, that’s the only direct observation of an anole being preyed upon by an owl (although a quick search on Google Images will yield many photos like the one at right). We’ve also discussed the parallel  issue of bat predation on anoles in these pages. Clearly, more data are needed!

About Jonathan Losos

Professor and Curator of Herpetology at the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University. I've spent my entire professional career studying anoles and have discovered that the more I learn about anoles, the more I realize I don't know.

2 thoughts on “Owls Eat a Lot of Anoles: Data from Dominica

  1. My bird identification skills are limited…but in the posted photo the predator looks like a burrowing owl..and the ones around the Berkeley marina are quite diurnal. The photo also looks like it was taken in day-time.
    So this does not tell us much about when barn-owls choose to act as anole predators. When I was an anole predator, the best time for me was night-time… sleeping anoles when caught in a head-lamp rarely get away.
    But nocturnal barn-owl predation is presumably heavily reliant on acoustical signals. And sleeping anoles are presumably quite silent. So, my guess is that Dominica predation occurs during daylight hours, perhaps toward dusk. Since I have no data, your guess is as good (or better) than mine

  2. I vividly remember owls in Dominica, and the anoles flock to night-lights for the insects they attract…. But I did not ever see an owl catch an anole there back in the ’50’s when I was resident in Dominica. Maybe they have learned to hunt night-lights since? Skip

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