Owl pellets product of digestion
Take an evening walk after dusk and you might just spot an owl. We’re fortunate to live in an area that provides plenty of nesting sites for these predatory birds. Barn rafters, silos, tree hollows, and even nests vacated by other birds all provide comfy living spaces for owls. Often, the resonant, repetitive hooting of the great horned owl or the shrill screech of a barn owl can be heard once the sun goes down.
As raptors, owls use their sharp talons and curved beak to help capture and eat prey. Much of their time awake is spent hunting for food such as mice, voles, squirrels, snakes, rabbits, and other birds. Since they don’t have teeth, owls must either tear their prey apart or swallow it whole.
The food then enters the owl’s proventriculus (glandular stomach), an organ that separates the digestible material from the indigestible and passes it to the owl’s second stomach (ventriculus, or gizzard). The digestible parts are further broken down in the ventriculus and move to the owl’s intestine. Indigestible parts, including bones, feathers, fur, and teeth are compacted into a pellet.
The pellet of indigestible material then moves from the owl’s gizzard back up to the proventriculus and remains there until the digestible portions are fully absorbed. Once digestion is complete, the owl regurgitates the pellet of indigestible parts. The whole process can take up to 10 hours, and new prey can be consumed only after the pellet is expelled.
On a few recent daytime walks throughout the neighborhood, I’ve come across some rather large owl pellets. At first glance, they appear to be animal droppings, but closer inspection reveals they’re actually pellets. Each time, they’ve been on the ground directly beneath a large tree where an owl might roost.
It’s not a good idea to handle an owl pellet with your bare hands for sanitary reasons, but I’m not opposed to breaking one apart with a couple of sticks to try and see what the owl feasted upon. Occasionally, a skull and other small bones are discernible throughout the feathers or fur of the pellet.
My kids think I’m nuts, but I really find this sort of thing fascinating. I’m endlessly fond of owls and am glad to get this little glimpse into their world.
Mutt & Greet at the Minden Library this Saturday
To celebrate their READing Paws program, the Douglas County Public Library hosts a “ Mutt & Greet” in Minden 2:30-4:30 p.m. Saturday.
Children are encouraged to dress up as their favorite canine character from literature, film, television, or comics. They’ll have an opportunity to read to a therapy dog of their choice and take a photo together in a special booth. Snacks and drinks will be provided.
READing Paws is affiliated with the Reading Education Assistance Dogs program, which aims to help children increase their literacy skills by reading aloud to a four-legged buddy.
Therapy animals and their owners are nationally registered and trained.
The valley branch of DCPL is located at 1625 Library Lane in Minden. Questions may be directed to the library by calling 775-782-9841.
Amy Roby can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.