Do Owls Poop? 'Owl' You Need To Know About Their Toilet Training! | Kidadl


Do Owls Poop? 'Owl' You Need To Know About Their Toilet Training!

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Read these Tokyo facts to learn all about the Japanese capital.

Owls swallow their prey whole because they don't have teeth.

Owls are birds of prey. They hunt fish, reptiles, small mammals, and other birds.

When it comes to species richness, owls have over 200 species, and they are divided into two families: Strigidae and Tytonidae or barn owl family. Different species hunt in varied habitats and have different food requirements.

The Tawny owl typically found in Britain prey upon mice, voles, small birds, and invertebrates like beetles. Brown fish owls and Blakiston fish owls have a diet consisting mostly of fish. The great horned owl attacks bigger prey like rodents, small birds, rabbits, cats, small dogs, and even hares. Snowy owls of the tundra region feed on lemmings and water birds.

The food that owls eat is not stored and directly go into their stomach. In the gizzard, the food that is digestible passes through, and the indigestible parts like bones, fur, feathers, and teeth are packed into tight pellets.

Frequency Of Owl's Poop

The frequency of owl poop, like most birds depends on its size. Smaller birds tend to poop more in comparison to bigger birds. Diet also plays a major role, owls that eat more will poop more often. Owls poop multiple times a day in order to carry less weight and fly quickly and efficiently. The digested food is excreted out from the cloaca while the undigested food is released in the form of pellets.

Pellets take several hours to form after the owl has fed itself. Multiple prey animals consumed over a small-time period are compressed into one pellet. Once the pellet is formed it can stay in the proventriculus for upwards of 10 hours. The presence of the pellet in the owl's body prevents the bird from swallowing prey again. Regurgitation of pellet signifies that the owl is ready to feed again. Owl regurgitates one or two pellets per day.

Owls usually eject pellets in their habitual roost therefore, you will find multiple pellets in the same area.

The texture and shape of the owl pellet depend on their size, species, and the prey that they eat. Pellets may be oval, tightly packed and furry, or irregular shaped and loose.

Barn owl pellets are the size of a man's thumb, smooth, dark, and cylindrical. Great horned owls have pellets that can be 3-4 in (7.6-10 cm) big. They are cylindrical and tightly compact. Smaller owls like tiny elf owls have small pellets that are dry and loosely compact because their frequent targets are insects.

Owl pellets are used by environmentalists and scientists to study what food items an owl ate. Dissection of owl pellets is also a common practice in schools.

How They Poop

Owls eat their prey whole and because of this it's digestion is unique. The proventriculus has enzymes, mucus, and acid that break down the meal. The gizzard or ventriculus separates the soft digestible part and the indigestible parts.

The soft parts are then passed down to the small intestine where they are absorbed into the bloodstream. The hard parts in the gizzard form pellets, they come back up into the proventriculus. They stay here until it is ready to be regurgitated by passing through the oesophagus and then the beak.

An owl gets rid of its excretion in two ways. The soft parts of the prey are digested and pooped out through its excretory opening or vent. The undigested parts of the prey are regurgitated out through the beak in the form of an owl pellet.

Owl poop like most bird poop is white. This is because of uric acid which is similar to urine.

Pellets, despite their appearance, are not poop. They are regurgitated remains that are not digestible. They also don't contain the excretive acids that are present in poop. Pellets are more like vomit.

The Colour Of An Owl's Poop

Owl poop like most birds poop is white. This whitewash happens because of uric acid present in the excretion. The droppings present inside the watery excretion is actual poop.

Sometimes barn owl faeces are also black or white and black in colour.

Fascinating owl poop facts for kids.

Owl Pellet

Owl Pellets are compressed, indigestible parts of prey that are regurgitated by the owl. They are composed of bones, fur, feathers, hair, and teeth. Pellets have no distinctive smell and have a uniform colour. Pellets are black in colour when fresh and turn gray on drying. Black pellets are unique to owls because other birds like the kestrel, buzzard, and little owl have gray pellets.

Owl pellets are also different from hawk pellets because they are larger. Owls gobble whole prey while hawks tend to rip off small meat pieces. An owl's stomach acids are also quite weak and hence owl pellets have entire bones and animal remains.

A pellet often contains the remains of four or five small animals. After an owl eats, forming a tight pellet takes upwards of six hours. During the time that it takes to form the pellet, owls usually rest. They are sustained by the energy released from this slow digestion.

Owls don't have a lot of body fat and hence they can't store excess energy to sustain them during digestion. Owls have to digest food slowly and cast pellets before eating a new prey.

An owl typically casts its pellet from its favourite roost or a nest (depending on what season it is). These birds perch on trees or near barns.

The dissection of a pallet can reveal an owl's exact diet, where the birds roost, what small mammals live nearby, and the body proportions of those animals.

Owl Digestive System

Owls don't chew their food and smaller prey are swallowed whole while larger prey is torn into smaller pieces and then swallowed. Owls lack crop in their throat, a loose sac that stores food for later consumption, hence all the swallowed food enters directly into their digestive system.

An owl's stomach is divided into parts, proventriculus and ventriculus or gizzard. The proventriculus is the glandular stomach and produces enzymes, mucus, and acids that start the digestion process. The ventriculus or gizzard is the muscular stomach, and it prevents insoluble items like bones, teeth, fur, and feathers from passing.

The soft parts of the prey are ground up by the gizzard and allowed to pass to the rest of the digestive system. The small intestine comes next in the digestive process, and it is here that food is absorbed into the body with the help of enzymes secreted by the liver and pancreas. The food reaches the cloaca after passing through the large intestine.

Cloaca, the end of the owl's digestive tract, is an area that holds the wastes and products from the digestive and urinary systems of the owl. The cloaca has a vent that opens to the outside to dispose of the excretion. The indigestible parts like bones, furs, and feathers that were separated in the gizzard are compressed into a pellet.

The pellet then comes back into the proventriculus and remains there till it is regurgitated. The pellet can stay in the proventriculus for up to 10 hours and because it blocks the owl's digestive system, new food cannot be swallowed till it is regurgitated.

Birds, except ostrich, don't have a bladder, the excretion that is disposed of through the vent is mostly white because of the presence of urea.

Conserving Owls

Over the last 10 years, an observable decline in the owl population has occurred. The reason for this can be contributed to the loss of habitat, hunting, poaching, climate change, loss of prey, and viral diseases. To save the threatened owl species what we need is owl conservation. Conversation of owls involves measures that can help in curbing the population decline. These measures are:

  • Banning owl hunting.
  • Establishing protective areas in areas where owls habitat to stop the destruction of their habitats.
  • Reducing the use of insecticides because owls eat consume insects and consuming insecticide is dangerous for them.
  • Donating to owl conservation organizations.
Written By
Srija Chanda

<p>An aspiring media professional, Srija is currently pursuing her Master's degree in Mass Communication at St. Xavier's University, Kolkata, after completing her degree in journalism. With experience in PR and social media, she has also honed her leadership skills through her participation in a youth parliament. Srija's interests include devouring books, watching movies, and exploring new places through travel.</p>

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