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The awesome thing about learning how to dissect owl pellets as a homeschool project is that everyone can participate. Rachel and I were just as intrigued as Gracelynn was when it came to picking the owl pellets apart. She was excited to show her sisters when they got home, and saved them each a pellet so they could join in on the “fun”.
Grace works through things rather quickly, so I create a Google Doc each day with several assignments for her to do (here's ours for today). She also has a 4″ binder full of worksheets she can do if she gets bored. Our big project for this afternoon, though, was learning about the food chain and how owls digest their food.
How to Dissect Owl Pellets
Supplies needed: owl pellets, tweezers, resources below (video, website, lab report), disposable gloves.
A note on owl pellets: Not all pellets are created equal. If you don't have a barn full of owls, you're probably going to have to purchase pellets online. Be sure to look at the reviews before making a decision on which ones to buy. Avoid synthetic ones as they're just fake fur and bones! The ones we used for this project are here: owl pellets.
You do not need to buy an “owl dissection kit”. They're charging you for the pellets, tweezers (you probably already have on hand), and printables (which are free). Just buy the owl pellets.
Watch this video on pellet dissection, discussing what you think it's going to be like to dissect your owl pellet.
Visit this website and click on PELLET INFORMATION
Answer these questions:
1. What is a pellet?
2. How do pellets form?
3. What's inside a pellet?
Free Owl Pellets Study – 21 paged PDF file with bone chart, information, and more.
In-Depth Owl Pellet Workbook
Owl Unit Study and Lapbook – Looks like this is for younger kids but it is cute and easily could be adapted for older grades.
Fun Facts About Owls – (free Kindle e-book)
Owl Documentary – 1 hour long
Our Experience Dissecting Owl Pellets
At first when we opened the owl pellets, we realized it was kind of gross. We didn't use gloves because, well, Mom forgot to get them. We just sanitized before and after.
Yeah, it looks like a big turd. Contrary to popular belief, owl pellets are not owl poop. We learned that owls eat animals like mice and birds but obviously do not digest the bones, so a pellet of fur and bones forms in their stomach and then they throw it up.
The first “big” discovery. Look at those teeth! You've gotta be careful when pulling it all apart, because the bones are fragile.
Grace really got into it when she started finding the bigger bones. Then came the matching! It was like a puzzle, and some pieces weren't whole so they didn't match up. She said the skulls and jaws were the most fun to identify and match.
Leftovers after digging through and finding the bones. There were still a few left in the pile but they're so small sometimes you will miss them.
Final observation: “This was gross, but it was really cool!”