Friday, 3 February 2012

Barn Owl Pellet Experience

This wee, at WOW! Club, we had a go at dissecting some barn owl pellets. Some had come all the way from Heligan in Cornwall. AT Heligan, they have barn owls nesting in a nest box in an old derelict barn and they also have a live camera on the owls. You can watch them at You may see some pellets in the nest box. Others are shed into the barn and collected. Sam made a film about his barn owls at Heligan and you can see it on YouTube HERE

Some of the other pellets came from the Staffs Barn Owl Action group. A big thank you to Helen and Sam for sending them to us.

We learnt that barn owls hunt over fields where their prey live. One of their favourite prey is field voles which live in the long grass. The Barn owl captures its prey with its talons and then swallows its prey whole. Their stomachs break down the vole, absorbing all the goodness from it. There are bits left that their bodies cannot absorb... the bones and the fur. The owl 'spits' out all these bits in a little package called a pellet. These pellets are amazing as they tell us all about what the owl has been eating. This, in turn, tells us about the small mammals that live in the area and how healthy the habitat is.

We had soaked the pellets in disinfectant and then used some BBQ skewers to help us tease the pellets apart so we could see what our owls had been eating. It was amazing! We found all sorts of bones and skulls. Some of us had three of four skulls in one pellet.... meaning the owl had been a really successful hunter! !This also tells us that the habitat is a healthy one, supporting lots of small mammals which, in turn, become food for the top predator, our barn owl!

Here we are... completely engrossed!....

We really enjoyed dissecting the pellets and looking at them under our little microscope. We learnt loads!