Bird Puke, Not Exactly…


Ok, I know. I have been slacking lately. It was a combination of working on a belly dance costume, practicing for a belly dance show and post-election blues. And yeah, the blog was put on hold. Well, I finally got time to work on it. And now after much shivering with antici…



…pation , on to the main topic: Owl Pellets!

So, um owl pellets, perhaps my least glamorous topic yet. What exactly are they? Basically, they are bird puke. Sorta. More specifically, it is stuff they ate and cannot digest, mostly things like hair and bones and such[i]. And comes out their mouths instead of their asses.[ii] And it turns out owls are not the only kind of bird that does this. In fact, many kinds of birds do this,[iii] but I am not going to list them all as I don’t want to get off topic, and I am just too damned lazy. But for some reason, owl pellets seem to be the best known.

The pellets themselves come from an organ called the gizzard, which is sort of a second stomach that birds have[iv]. The food is partially digested in the gizzard, which is part of the stomach in birds. Then moves to the proventiculus,[v] which is another part of the stomach.[vi] It then goes back to the gizzard, and then gets regurgitated.[vii] The puking up of the pellets cleans out part of the digestive tract on these birds.[viii] Owls cast up pellets just about every day.[ix] The pellets form 6 to 10 hours after the owl eats, and is then puked up 10 to 16 hours after that meal.[x] Equally important, the owl cannot eat until after it pukes up the pellet.[xi]

The pellets themselves are usually 1.5 to 3.5 inches long and are shaped like the owl’s gizzard, which varies by species.[xii] They are usually found near where they roost.[xiii] So if you find pellets, look up and you may find the owl responsible for the pellets. As for the pellets in this image, I did look up, but sadly the owl responsible was MIA. Or very well hidden, they do that quite well.[xiv]

BONUS: You can buy these things too. While researching the topic, I have found numerous venders selling owl pellet dissection kits. Mainly for educational purposes, and geared for kids. Yup, they get to cut up something an owl puked up and see what is inside it! Fun, fun, fun! DOUBLE BONUS: These things carry a strain of salmonella, and must be sterilized[xv]. I assume most of the owl pellet kits have been previously sterilized.

[i] Author Unknown “Pellet (Ornithology)” Wikipedia


[ii] Elphick, Chris; Dunning Jr. John; and Sibley, David Allen. Editors.  “The Sibley Guide to Bird Behavior” Albert A. Knopf Inc., New York. 2001. Pg 343

[iii] Author Unknown “Pellet (Ornithology)” Wikipedia


[iv] Author Unknown  “Pellet (Ornithology)” Wikipedia


[v] Author Unknown “Pellet (Ornithology)” Wikipedia


[vi] Author Unknown “Proventiculus” Wikipedia 27NOV2016

[vii] Author Unknown  “Pellet (Ornithology)” Wikipedia


[viii] Author Unknown “Pellet (Ornithology)” Wikipedia


[ix] Author Unknown “What are Owl Pellets” The Cornell Lab of Ornithology Published 01APR2009

[x] Author Unknown “Owls &Owl Pellets” Chipper Woods Bird Observatory 29NOV2016

[xi] Lindell, John “How Are Owl Pellets Formed” ” eHow 29NOV2016

[xii] Kellenberg, Sam “Facts About Owl Pellets” eHow 29NOV2016

[xiii] Author Unknown  “Pellet (Ornithology)” Wikipedia


[xiv] Author Unknown “Owl” Wikipedia 29NOV2016

[xv] Author Unknown “Pellet (Ornithology)” Wikipedia



Photo Credit: Me

30NOV2016  Emily Curewitz


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