What are owl pellets?

April 1, 2009
The owl pellet of a Northern Pygmy-Owl. Photo by Anne Elliott via Birdshare. The owl pellet of a Northern Pygmy-Owl. Photo by Anne Elliott via Birdshare.
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Owls swallow their prey whole or in large pieces, but they cannot digest fur, teeth, bones, or feathers. Like other birds, owls have two chambers in their stomachs. In the first chamber, the glandular stomach or proventriculus, all the digestible parts of an owl’s meal are liquefied. Then the meal passes into the second chamber, the muscular stomach or gizzard, which grinds down hard structures and squeezes the digestible food into the intestines. The remaining, indigestible fur, bones, and teeth are compacted into a pellet which the owl spits out. Owls typically cast one pellet per day, often from the same roosting spot, so you may find large numbers of owl pellets on the ground in a single place.

Browse through owls—and listen to their hoots—in our bird guide.

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