3 April 2017

Virtual owl pellet

Posted by Callan Bentley

Owls are nocturnal birds of prey that eat rodents and grasshoppers, digest the good stuff, and cough up the rest in compressed “pellets” of fur, bone, and chitinous exoskeleton.

I found an owl pellet in my yard a few weeks ago, and imaged it using my GIGAmacro Magnify2. I rotated it around to get multiple views, as seen here. I’ve got both Flash and non-Flash versions of the GigaPan embed here:

Link 0.45 Gpx GIGAmacro by Callan Bentley

This is a “live” GigaPan image, so you can (and should!) zoom in and explore. Can you find a grasshopper leg? A rodent jaw? What else?

Then my wife, a biologist, and our four-year-old son dissected it, and here are the individual bones they were able to tease out. Find a tooth, a bit of skull, a grasshopper leg packed with mouse fur…

Link 0.45 Gpx GIGAmacro by Callan Bentley

…and with the various bits flipped over, to see the other side of each:

Link 0.45 Gpx GIGAmacro by Callan Bentley

I suspect this pellet originated in the gut of a barred owl, because that’s the species I hear calling most frequently in my forest, and it seems too big to emerge from the relatively diminutive form of a screech owl, the next most common owl we have around here.