Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Not For Old Eyes (or Bifocals)

We are finally finished with the school groups and are settling into our jobs as Interpretive Hosts. 

We will present a program (usually some type of nature movie or a power point presentation that Mark has created) every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday night.  In addition, we will have some type of Jr. Ranger activity on Saturday morning and offer a hike on Sunday morning.

So far our most popular Jr. Ranger activity has been dissecting owl pellets.  From what we can tell, these pellets are from captive owls and have been sterilized. They come wrapped in aluminum foil.

We thought we should open one up first to see what we were getting ourselves into!  They are packed tight and are amazingly hard to pull apart.  We used toothpicks to carefully pick apart the pellet.
Owls use their beaks to rip their prey apart and then eat large chunks whole.  They digest their meal by separating the softer material (such as meat) from the harder material (such as bone) along with indigestible material such as feathers and fur.

Material that is not digestible is formed into a pellet.  Before the owl can eat another meal it must regurgitate the pellet.

We found a handy bone sorting chart to use in identifying some of the tiny little bones.
This one pellet had three skulls, several thigh bones, ribs and other assorted bones.  It also contained a lot of fur.
We broke our pellet in half and each picked our half apart.  This is a picture of the fur separated from the bones from half of the pellet:
This was a super fun activity that was well attended. We had the kids set up in groups of 3-4 with a pellet to share. We’ll be dissecting owl pellets several more times this summer.


  1. That program should be a big hit! When I lived in New York, a neighbor girl found a great horned owl pellet. When she took it apart, she found a band from a chickadee that I had banded the previous year. When I banded it, I had noted that chickadee had a deformed foot. Survival of the fittest?

  2. That is amazing, What a way to recover a band!

  3. What a fun project! We had a group of Cub Scouts last evening... my presentation included owl pellets we had on our "touch" table. Those kids were trying to ID the bones... wish you'd have been there!

  4. Those are an interesting find and fun to pull apart to see what kind of bones are in there.