Everything You've Wanted To Know About An Owl Pellet!

Supriya Jain
Sep 01, 2023 By Supriya Jain
Originally Published on Nov 17, 2021
Edited by Rhea Nischal
Fact-checked by Amanpreet Kaur
 Owl Pellet isolated on white
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Age: 3-18
Read time: 4.3 Min

Large numbers of birds, including owls, are unable to chew their food.

The majority of the time, owls tend to eat their prey whole. Owls lack a baglike organ that is used to store food and digest the food later.

Food travels directly from the mouth of owls and through the gizzard. The extra or indigestible eaten parts, like bone, feather, fur, and teeth, from the animals, that owls eat form a round mass in the owl, and then later owls spit these parts into what is called a pellet. Let us now read more about an owl pellet and its identification in the wild!

You must also read our fascinating articles about how long do owls live, and can you have a pet owl? here on Kidadl.

What exactly is an owl pellet?

A pellet, in ornithology, is known as the undigested food that a bird may swallow and later regurgitate. An owl pellet might be known as vomit, as it is essentially undigested food that the owl spits from its mouth. As owls eat their prey whole, the indigestible parts of the prey are stored in what is called a gizzard. This gizzard helps the digestive system of the owl in sorting these bones and muscles.

The gizzard has a systematic operation that helps the owl digest the food. Digestible food or soft food passes easily through owls' stomachs, whereas the hard bone, skull, teeth, or remaining fur of the animal that the owl ate takes the shape of a round mass.

An owl pellet helps in studying ecology. The components an owl pellet may contain can give us various types of information about ecology. For example, the bone in the pellet or a piece of a feather can inform us what type of food the owl eats.

Then, in a few hours, though digested, this mass is regurgitated while the owl is roosting. This mass is known as an 'owl pellet'. This pellet of an owl is usually very important for researchers to find out more about owls and what they eat. Many other birds are known to perform the same function of forming pellets, but it is slightly different in owls, as they do not tear the animal or bird they eat into small bits.

What does an owl pellet look like?

According to the researchers, the color and size of the pellet may vary from owl to owl depending on what kind of food the owl consumes.

One pellet might be oval or furry, while the other pellets of the owl can be loose and have an irregular shape. The pellets of the owl can be moist at first, but they turn dry as soon as they leave the body of the owl. Barn owl pellets usually tend to be soft, round, and dark in color. Barn owl pellets can be dark in color when regurgitated, but pellets turn dark gray as they dry.

Close up of an owl

How to dissect an owl pellet?

Barn owl pellets can be dissected naturally by moths, but the bones can be left for a long time. Owl pellet dissection can be done when the pellet is dry or wet. Dry pellets are easier to analyze, but dry pellets can be steeped in water for 24 hours to recover any small mammal bones undamaged.

With either fingers or tweezers, carefully peel the pellet. Despite the fact that pellets have no odor (they are not feces), it is important that your hands are properly cleaned with soap and water after the owl pellet dissection is done.

Where to find owl pellets?

Anywhere there are owls, an owl pellet can be found nearby!

Owl pellets can be located at the base of trees where the owl might lay a nest. Owl pellets can also be found in the area near the owl that might roost. While collecting owl pellets, it is important to not disturb the owl.

Are owl pellets safe to touch?

Many harmful diseases can be transmitted as owls eat rodents or other animals.

It is not necessary that you will get infected, but safety is better. It is recommended to wear gloves while handling an owl pellet. Many companies and researchers use sanitizers and recommend using soap to clean their hands after owl pellet dissection is done.

What happens to the indigestible material?

These owl pellets are pellets that have been regurgitated.

Skulls, claws, fur, teeth, or feathers that have been left in the gizzard are too harmful to travel through the rest of the owl's intestinal system. An owl's gizzard compresses the waste together into a tight pellet that the owl regurgitates.

Do owl pellets carry disease?

Because the pellets may contain highly dangerous viruses and germs, it is important to treat owl pellets with gloves and sterilize them in the microwave for a minute or more before performing owl pellet dissection.

For example, salmonella and other harmful germs can be infectious to human beings. You may purchase owl pellet dissection kits or view instructional videos on how to perform owl pellet dissection.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for owl pellet then why not take a look at owl beak, or barred owl facts.

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Written by Supriya Jain

Bachelor of Commerce, Master of Business Administration specializing in Marketing

Supriya Jain picture

Supriya JainBachelor of Commerce, Master of Business Administration specializing in Marketing

As a skilled member of the Kidadl team, Shruti brings extensive experience and expertise in professional content writing. With a Bachelor's degree in Commerce from Punjab University and an MBA in Business Administration from IMT Nagpur, Shruti has worked in diverse roles such as sales intern, content writer, executive trainee, and business development consultant. Her exceptional writing skills cover a wide range of areas, including SOP, SEO, B2B/B2C, and academic content.

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