Everything You Need to Know About Owls Legs: Facts, Types, Size, & Features 

Adapted for hunting and perching, owls’ legs are long and thin, with powerful muscles that allow owls to grasp and hold on to their prey. Owls also have sharp, curved talons, which they use to capture and kill their prey. 

An owl’s legs are covered in feathers, which help to keep the legs warm and also provide camouflage. Owls are incredibly flexible birds, thanks to the tarsal joint that allows them to rotate their feet and adjust their grip on perches.  

Owl legs are uniquely adapted for hunting and balancing. Some species of owls, such as the great horned owl, have particularly large and powerful legs and talons, which they use to hunt larger prey, such as rabbits and squirrels.

Fun Facts About Owls Legs  

With strikingly big, round eyes, owls are known for crouching, making it challenging to know how their legs and feet look like.  

Because they crouch and hide their likes, owls got many people asking, how long are owl legs? How do they look like? How do owls use their talons for perching and feeding? Let’s see and learn many facts about owl legs.  

Owl Legs Vary in Size  

For many years, many of us believed owls have short, tiny legs. But a viral photo showing an owl catching prey has surprised and changed our minds. The legs of an owl can be long as half the size of its body.  

However, this varies from species to species, with only a few having short legs. Most owls hide their legs and it takes a keen eye to take a photo of their legs. They’re mostly covered in feathers and are quite flexible.  

Which Species Has the Longest Legs?  

The Eagle Owl (Bubo bubo) has the longest legs, making this owl one of the tallest owls in the world. This bird has legs which could be anywhere from 20-30 cm long. It has large, round head, large, yellow eyes, and long, barred tail feathers. Its body is covered in mottled brown, white, and black feathers, which provide excellent camouflage in its natural habitat of forests and woodlands. 

Eurasian eagle-owls are nocturnal hunters that prey on a variety of small mammals, such as mice, voles, and rabbits. They have excellent vision and hearing, which allows them to locate prey even in low light conditions. 

Why Do Owls Have Long Legs? 

Long legs enable owls to perch comfortably on trees and to grasp prey with ease. With long legs, it’s easier for them to hold a firm grip on their prey and maintain balance on narrow perches. 

Can Owls Legs Run?  

While owls’ legs aren’t adapted for running, owls can move and bounce quickly on the ground for short distance. They mostly rely on their wings and talons to capture and kill their prey 

Some species of owls, such as the great horned owl, have long, powerful legs and talons that allow them to move quickly and efficiently on the ground. Like all birds, their legs assist them in generating the speed they need during flight.  

How Do Owls Legs Look?  

From the smallest great horned owls to the largest great gray owl, every species of this birds is exceptional at hiding their legs. However, when you spot their legs, they’re usually long, thin, and powerful. The legs have sharp, curved talons for catching prey including rabbits and squirrels.  

Like many other raptors, owls have feathers on their legs to keep them warm and also to muffle the sound of air moving over their legs. This allows legs to have quiet, fast flights, which allows them to catch their prey by surprise.  

Owlets Have Pink Legs  

Mature owls have near black to pale grey or ivory legs, while owlets (the hatchlings of an owl) have pink legs. The baby owls are vulnerable, blind, and helpless as compared to agile and strong adults. Their legs appear longer, and thinner than those of their parents. Owlets also appear taller and slender than adult owls.  

How Owls Legs Catch Prey 

Owls have extremely powerful and specialized muscles in their legs, which makes them strong and flexible. Long and thin, the legs of a whole remain tucked under the body with toes closed during flight. This position makes their flight efficient and silent.  

With their sharp eyesight, owls can scan for prey miles away and swiftly hunt them. As they head down to catch their targets, they begin to stretch out their legs and spread their toes and talons open.

Their legs hold the prey catch, seize, and keep the prey in position. Owl’s talons are relatively uniform in size as compared to those of other raptors, which gives them a better chance of maintaining a firm grip in flight. 

Can Owls Stand on their Toes?  

As put earlier, owl legs are longer than they appear at first glance. Owls are zygodactyl, meaning they have two forward-facing toes and two backwards-facing toes. Unlike most zygodactyl birds, owls are mysterious as they can stand on their back toes, allowing them to firmly grip. 

It also gives them the stability they need to walk on flat surfaces and maintain balance when subduing larger, struggling prey. Owls use their middle toe for grooming their delicate facial feathers.  

Why Do Owls Have Strong Talons?  

Owls have powerful talons as their primary function is to capture prey. Unlike in other raptors, their talons are shorter and stronger to withstand the force of an impact when they catch prey.

This is particularly important because owls have thin and delicate legs. Strong talons make up for the thin legs. Owl talons are the sharp, curved, which double as hunting tools and armor to defend their territories. 


Many owl species have long, thin, and feathered feet. Feathers protect them from cold weather, while the long structure assists them in perching and clutching prey.

Their outer front toes can swivel front and back, because of the flexible joint in their legs. Owl’s legs are primarily designed for perching and killing prey. The next time you go birdwatching, I’m giving you the challenge of spotting and photographing owls’ legs.  

Julian Goldie - Owner of ChiperBirds.com

Julian Goldie

I'm a bird enthusiast and creator of Chipper Birds, a blog sharing my experience caring for birds. I've traveled the world bird watching and I'm committed to helping others with bird care. Contact me at [email protected] for assistance.