Why Study Owl Pellets?

Owls are very often found at the top of their particular food chain and we know that they have a very significant part to play ecologically, but we still have a long way to go before we know their exact role and just how vital it is. Studying an Owl’s pellets can provide us with important information about all sorts of aspects such as prey and habitat.

What is an Owl Pellet?

Owls are carnivorous and eat a wide range of animals, including birds, voles, mice, rabbits, frogs and insects. Not having teeth, they will either eat their prey whole or tear it into large chunks with their sharp beaks. Once swallowed, the food travels down the owl’s oesophagus to the gizzard. Soft parts of the prey are then broken up by enzymes, but the hard bony components and other elements such as hair and feathers remain undigested. These are then ‘regurgitated’ or coughed up, as a pellet, before the owl can eat its next meal. Pellets are NOT droppings, as they do not pass through the intestine. They are usually quite soft to the touch and are odourless.

Pellet Dissection

Equipment
  • Thin rubber or surgical gloves – to ensure hygiene whilst handling pellets
  • Bone Identification Charts – to help identify parts of the prey
  • Pen and card - for recording findings
  • Ruler – for measuring pellets
  • Tweezers and cocktail sticks (or similar) – for extracting bones from the fur
  • Magnifying glass – to help identify the bones
  • Small pot with water and a mild disinfectant in – for cleaning extracted items
  • Paper towels – for absorbing excess water
  • A shallow dish or newspaper - to dissect the pellet on
  • Strong glue – to attach bones to labelled card

Pellets ~ Owl Pellets for dissection are on sale at £2.50p each

Remember:- ALWAYS wash your hands after handling owl pellets and their contents!

Click Here to find out how to be a Pellet Detective

Teacher Notes -
please read


PELLET DETECTIVES
Our guide to investigating Owl Pellets