Phillip Elden: A Fun (And Gross!) Way For Kids To Learn About Owls

Phillip EldenAs a conservation professional, Phillip Elden is always looking for fun ways to teach the next generation about the natural world. Keep reading for more information on one of the most informational activities that you can do with your own children.

What are owl pellets?

According to Phillip Elden, an owl pellet is a mass of undigested food that owls coughed up once they have extracted all of the nutrition possible from a kill. Owl pellets can be found in the wild or bought online, and many schools use them as a learning tool to help students understand predator behavior. Owl pellets can be dissected rather easily.

Phillip Elden explains that a student dissecting an owl pellet might find anything from hair to bones. This is an excellent way to find out what the animals in your own backyard are eating, and young learners might be surprised to see remnants of birds and small mammals that are not native to Oregon.

Owl pellets, according to Phillip Elden, are not excrement. Many people forgo dissecting these because they believe there will be a bad smell associated with it. There is not, and a dry owl pellet may not have any odor at all.

How do you dissect an owl pellet?

Because owl pellets might contain bacteria, Phillip Elden recommends starting with basic hygiene. You should soak your owl pellet in a disinfectant solution, such as alcohol and water, for both cleaning and to make dissection easier. When ready, simply pull it apart with your fingers. It is not unusual to find skulls and bones, and some students report finding entire skeletons inside of their owl pellets.

Keep in mind that, although owl pellets may be found in the wild, Phillip Elden does not recommend sourcing them without assistance. Some owl species are protected, meaning that it is illegal to disturb their nesting site, even if it is on private property.