Hainault Forest Website

Written and Designed by Brian Ecott

BE A NATURE DETECTIVE

 Owl Pellets

 

Many birds regurgitate the indigestible remains of their food in the form of a pellet. These little packages contain a wealth of information on their prey. Gull pellets can be found on cliff tops. Birds of prey including eagles, hawks and owls leave pellets by their nests, perches and roosts. Pellets may contain bones, fur, feathers, insects and plant materials.

 

Owl pellets vary in size and shape and a single pellet of a Barn owl may contain the remains of 4 or 5 mice, voles or shrews.

 

Pellets can be soaked in water and then teased carefully apart using needles and tweezers.

 

The Little owl pellets which were collected in The Country Park are typically rounded at one end and pointed at the other end up to 4 x 1.5cm. Little owl diet consists of earthworms, beetles, mice, voles, shrews, and birds. Of the 12 pellets examined, one consisted almost entirely of beetles, two others were mainly mud from the ingestion of earthworms, and the remainder contained fur, a few bones, jaw bones, teeth, but mainly beetle parts.

 

The shrew jawbones contained red tipped teeth and those of both Pigmy shrew  Sorex minutus and Common shrew S. araneus were identified.

 

Jawbones of voles were found together with incisor teeth and molars and as the molar teeth contained no roots these belonged to the Field vole Microtus agrestis.

 

Legs, wings and wing cases of various beetles were found  including possibly the Violet ground beetle Carabus violaceus but these would require expert identification.

 

Little Owl pellets

Various Beetle parts

Top:

Pigmy Shrew lower jaw

Lower two:

Common shrew

Field vole jaws

Field vole teeth

Vole incisor teeth

Bird & mammal bones.

Above: Little owl pellets and droppings (white) under a roost on the farm at Hainault Forest.

Right: Tawny owl pellets - the scale is in inches.

 

 

FURTHER READING

 

Collins Guide to Animal Tracks and Signs (1974)

           by Preben Bang and Preben Dahlstrom. (Collins)

 

Tracks and Signs of the Birds of Britain and Europe (1999)

           by Roy Brown et al. (Helm)

 

Mammals of Britain - their tracks, trails and signs (1973)

           by M J Lawrence & R W Brown (Blandford

 

Pellet of Bird of Prey showing feather shafts