In the Classroom

Science Discipline(s)

Anatomy

Biology

Ecology

 

Topics

Food Webs

Digestive System

 

Activity Title

Owl Pellet Dissection

 

Materials

Owl Pellets

Gloves

Magnifying Glass

Tweezers or Needles

Chart of Mouse, Vole or Rat Skeletons (skeletons of animals or food an owl might eat)

Glue

Paper Towels

Pencils

 

Procedure

  • Make students wear plastic, disposable gloves. *Most important step since the audience will be dissecting something that was inside of an owl!*
  • Measure and note the shape of the pellet by tracing or drawing its shape
  • Place the pellet on a clean work space and using tweezers and/or needles, carefully break open the pellet and separate the bones, teeth, fur and other body parts from the pellet
  • Try to reassemble the skeleton and overlay it on a chart of birds or rodent skeleton

 

Questions

  • PK- grade 3 students

What do you think owls eat?

Why do you think that an owl has to spit-out an owl pellet?

 

  • 4th to 6th grade

Which animals do you think will be in the pellet and how will you know if their remains are in the pellet? What evidence would you look for to determine which animals were present?

What is a consumer? A Predator?

What is the difference between an omnivore? A carnivore? An herbivore?

Based on what you dissected, do you think owls are omnivores, carnivores, or herbivores?

  • Middle School

Why do you think owls make pellets?

If we could only swallow food whole, how do you think our digestive system would change? (think general)

Give a basic schematic of how an owl eats, explain each step.

 

Explanations

  • PK to 3rd grade

Owls and humans have very different digestive systems.  Owls aren’t able to chew on their food because they have no teeth.  Because of this, they swallow their food whole and then throw it up.  We can pick apart what they left behind and figure out what they must have eaten!

  • 4th to 6th grade

Owls and humans have very different digestive systems.  Owls are carnivores, meaning they eat meat.  Meat is a high energy food and gives owls the energy they need to survive.  Owls are also nocturnal predators.  Since owls don’t have teeth to grind food, they must swallow their food whole.  This enables their digestive system to gag out what they couldn’t digest and allows for us scientists to examine what they eat!

  • Middle School

Owls and humans have very different digestive systems.  What makes a food digestible to a human may not be digestible to an owl.  Owls don’t have teeth which makes eating for them very different from a human’s way of eating since we can chew.  Because of this, owls swallow their food whole.  Leftover hair and bones of their prey then forms into a pellet which the owls eventually gag out, since it can’t be passed through the digestive tract.