That May Have Hurt
A few days ago, while looking for saw-whet owls, I came upon one tree with whitewash and a pocketful of owl pellets underneath on the ground.
Owl pellets are the undigested material of previous meals (mice, moles, etc.) that owls catch and consume. Since the birds eat the animals intact, their gizzards have the responsibility of passing soft tissues through for further digestion and conversion to energy while the bones, fur, feathers, and other unusable prey body parts are formed into a pellet. Hours after dining, the owl will regurgitate the pellet that then drops below – often to the ground. Since owls tend to use roost trees repeatedly, it is possible to find many pellets in one area.
The other day I literally found a pocket full of pellets. Most of the pellets survived the hunt through the woods, though some did break apart.
Speaking of breaking apart…I collect owl pellets so I can study the skeletal remains of owl diets. Most often I do this with young kids in schools. I am thinking the next time my grandkids visit we might break apart pellets with toothpicks.
The owl pellet in this picture clearly shows the skeletal remains of a previous meal. Fortunately owl pellets are moist when passed or moving this one back up the food chute may have hurt.
Photographed in a dark room, with an off-camera flash to the left side of the pellet at a low ISO.