October is a fantastic time to study owls and examine owl pellets. Don’t worry if you have never dissected an owl pellet before, just do it! It is so easy and fun. People have a lot of crazy ideas about what an owl pellet is. Basically, an owl pellet is owl barf. They look just like a kitties fur-ball and are essentially the same thing. Owls eat their prey whole. They are unable to digest the bones. So once the owl has digested the meat it throws up the bones. I have ordered pellets from different places. There are a lot of places that offer them for sale, just surf the web. If you are tight on funds and are lucky enough to have an owl sanctuary near by you may want to give them a call and see if they will give you a pellet. I took these pictures in Central Park. Lucky for us we stumbled on a “Birds of Prey” exhibition by a rescue group from Buffalo. My son is a serious owl lover! Don’t you just love spontaneous learning. It’s everywhere, you just have to be open to it!
The only equipment you need to dissect an owl pellet are tweezers, gloves, and a bone sorting sheet. Most pellets arrive with a bone sorting sheet that shows the various bones you may find and what type of animal it belonged to. Most pellets contain the bones of smaller birds, rodents, shrews, or moles. I found this standard bone sorting sheet on line if your pellet arrives with out one. We dissected our pellets over several days. It is amazing how many bones there are to sort in something so small. To keep everything together I purchased small baking sheets at the dollar store.
Once your pellet arrives simply use the tweezers to start picking apart the pellet. As you pick it apart more and more bones will unfold. I had the kids glue their bones in the proper square on the bone sorting sheet.
This is one of our sorting sheets. As you can see the bones are being identified and sorted.
My daughter picking through her pellet.
A pellet that has been pretty much dismantled.