Monday, August 26, 2013

What's an Owl Pellet? Field Trip



Last week we went on a fun field trip. Our local nature center has a lovely monthly homeschool class that we enjoyed several times last school year. Today was the first of the new year. My son was super excited because it was all about Birds of Prey and they had planned an owl pellet dissection.

The nature center has a large room where the main class is done. There are plenty of live animals for the children to observe as well as preserved specimen. All of the animals there are local animals that have been rescued and many were once injured and can not be returned to the wild.

We started the class with a powerpoint presentation talking about different birds of prey in our area. We learned about their sharp beaks which point downward, their strong talons with sharp claws and their excellent vision. Then they split the class and half of us went to dissect owl pellets and the other half went to see the live birds outside. We started with the owl pellets.

T (7) was most excited about the owl pellet dissection. He is a huge fan of science and right now any sort of dissection is exciting to him. He actually dissected an owl pellet last year from a kit we bought but it was just as fun to do it again. Our kit from last year was the Young Scientist's Club Set #10. I highly recommend this particular kit because you get a real owl pellet (not the synthetic kind with plastic bones like some kits have) and you also get some other experiments all for the same price as a synthetic owl pellet at some places.


The nature center's owl pellets were even more cool because they actually collected them from their resident owls' cages.

What is an owl pellet??
Im guessing some of you are wondering what Im talking about. When the owl eats an animal it often eats it whole or almost whole. The bones and hair are not digested, they are collected in a small pocket in the back of the throat called a crop. When that area is full, the owl will cough up this small ball of bone and hair which sort of resembles a cat hairball. YUCK! These are dry from sitting in a freezer.





The children each got one pellet and picked it apart with toothpicks. When we did ours at home we also used a tweezers which helped get all the hair out of bone crevices.



As they found bones they compared them to the provided chart to determine which type of bone it was. Then they put it on the chart to build the skeleton. Not all bones were there but most were.



The children were tasked at determining which type of animal the owl ate by looking at their skeleton. T's was a rodent, most likely a mouse.

After we were done dissecting the owl pellet we switched with the other group and went outside for the live bird part of class. We visited with the vultures, owls, hawk, and kite. We learned about each and listened to some of their calls.

At the very end the teacher brought out the Mississippi Kite for the children to see up close.




Great field trip! I can't wait to see what they have in store for us next month.

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