What the Heck is an Owl Pellet?

Our class went on a field trip to our local Science Center. We got to see lots of nature displays, but our favorite was the one about owl pellets. We even got to take some owl pellets home.

Owls are birds of prey, which means they hunt and eat small animals like mice. Owls can’t chew, though. They have to tear their prey into smaller pieces with their beaks and talons (claws) before they swallow them. One part of the owl’s stomach is called the proventriculus, or glandular stomach. That’s the part of the stomach that digests the parts of the prey the owl uses as food. The parts of the prey that the owl can’t digest, like bones, teeth, and fur, stay in the owl’s gizzard, or muscular stomach.

An owl pellet is the compressed (smooshed together) bones, teeth and fur of its prey. The owl regurgitates the pellet. It’s not like throwing up, though. The owl does this regularly, and the pellet just drops out of its beak.

We dissected owl pellets at the science center, and this is what we saw. owl_pellets1 It’s a little fuzzy, but you can see a bone, some teeth, and some fur. A little icky, but definitely interesting. Owls have to eat, too, you know.

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