Lake Hills Fourth Grade Science
Owl Pellets Contain Consumed Prey

Owls are at the top of the food chain. A food chain is a way that energy is passed from one animal to another.They are carnivores, which means they eat other animals. However, they cannot digest everything they eat, such as bones, fur, and feathers. The parts of their prey they cannot digest are coughed up as pellets. The photo on the right is an example of the small pieces of their consumed prey inside an owl pellet.

In a recent science investigation with, our fourth grade students took had the opportunity to spend several hours investigating owl pellets. By examining the pellets, we found out which harmful pests the owl has eaten. Michael and Kristin, right, carefully break apart the pellets for a closer look at what's inside. They were able to dissect the pellets and identify prey animals by studying their bones.

Owls usually hunt their prey that are small enough to gulp down whole. However, if they animal is too large to swallow whole, the owl will tear it apart into smaller pieces. Mike, right, discovers that unmasking these small pieces is a difficult task. Sometimes a microscope is helpful in identifying specific bones. Owls teach their young to hunt for their own food when they are about three months old.

The photo on the right shows how we found many remains an owl's consumed prey inside a pellet. We had to carefully tease away all the fur to discover the contents of the pellet. An owl will often produce two pellets a day. We should do all we can to take care of these helpful birds. We can help the owls by protecting their homes in wilderness areas and by not cutting down trees and by not using pesticides.

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