You may recall, we have the wonderful pleasure of providing the home for a family of Eastern Screech Owls. My first post on this topic introduces the family in a proper manner. As for now, I want talk about their vomit! No really! As a high school teacher, I only knew owl pellets as something that I could buy from a biological supply company, varying in price from $2-$6, depending on the size of the owl. Make sure you see the "Dirty Jobs: Owl Vomit Collector" that I posted in my first post about our owl family.
So you can only imagine the excitement I felt the moment I realized that I could collect my own pellets. I knew nothing about doing this, I just started looking below the branches where I know they perch, and voila! I'll admit they are a a bit more wet then what I was used to seeing, but talk about fresh!
For those of you who are wondering....why on earth would you collect owl vomit, or what on earth can you learn from owl vomit...here we go.
Owls eat small animals and insects. They eat their entire meal, feathers/fur, exoskeleton and all. However, they cannot digest the bones or the feathers/fur, so these are regurgitated 12 hours after they've eaten. So in this little morsel is a story of what the owl has eaten. Make this lesson about food chain/web or about primary, secondary, & tertiary consumers! Make it a lesson in skeletal anatomy or play CSI detective. Its up to you how you want to approach it!
The best way to go about dissecting owl pellets with students is for them NOT to know what they are. Because my son helped collect them, this wasn't really an option. But if possible, play the activity up a bit. Allow the kids to play detective.
As always, find out what new questions your students have from doing this activity! As I always say, "The more you know, the more you know you don't know!"
I wanted to mention that I got much of the information for this post from wonderful NSTA listserve individuals. A special thanks go out to Elizabeth Peterson and Alan Ascher who both provided great ideas on making owl pellet dissection inquiry instead of solely a dissection. Thank-you!