Thursday, November 13, 2008

Owl Pellets

Owl pellets. It's a nice way of saying "owl vomit". Or maybe "regurgitated rodent". As I mentioned in another post, owls eat small animals and then hoark back up all the bones and fur in a little ball. Our homeschooling group had the delightful opportunity to dissect some owl pellets yesterday.

We also got to hold some owl talons and hawk talons. (When I say "we" I mean "the kids".)

We got to hold a hawk wing and an owl wing.

When you flap them, you can hear the sound the hawk wing makes, but the owl wing is almost silent. Way cool.

This is one of the actual owl pellets. Looks like dirt to me.

The kids picked apart the pellets with their fingers and with toothpicks.

I thought there would be one animal carcass in each pellet, but it turned out there were four or five.

Everyone had to pick all the little bones out of the pile and identify it according to a chart we had. We identified ribs, hip bones, skulls and vertebrae! We also were usually able to tell if the owl had eaten moles, mice, birds, and shrews. We even found the remains of a caterpillar in one pellet.

Some days I wonder if it would be nicer to send my kids to school. They would come home from a day of dissecting owl pellets and I would ask, "What did you do today?" And they would reply, "Nothing." And I would go about in blissful ignorance of what a regurgitated mole looks like.

Ah well. Homeschooling is not for the squeamish!

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