Playing with Owl Puke

owl_pelletsEveryone has boring things they have to do at work as well as parts of their job that rock. Not only does my job have a ton of things that rock – but the best part is sharing the fun stuff with the public. (Luckily for those people, I keep all the boring data entry and meetings to myself).


In addition to awesome events and interesting people at the museum, we also have an educational cart program that provides interesting tidbits of information about a number of topics. One of these carts is all about owl pellets.

Museum program specialist Aaron Braithwaite investigates some owl pellets.

Museum program specialist Aaron Braithwaite investigates some owl pellets.

If you’ve never seen an owl pellet, it looks, well – sort of like poo and in fact, that’s what most people think it is when they walk up. They think that I’m some odd girl, standing there with a friendly smile and a table full of poo. Well folks, it’s not poo. It’s actually owl puke and it’s very cool.

Without ruining the whole experience for you, basically an owl eats its prey whole but can’t digest the fur and bones. So all of that goodness gets wadded up into what looks like a big fur ball and spit back up. I use the term “spit” loosely. It’s actually a more violent process – more akin to vomiting. So the owl hacks up this ball of fur and bones and goes on his merry way. Someone then collects these owl pellets so that those of us in education can dissect them.

Why dissect them? Why not leave the puke ball alone? Why pick up something that looks like that investigate what’s inside?

Because we can. And even the most reticent people can’t resist picking one little bone out of the pellet, then another, then another and before long they’ve been there 45 minutes and have two shrew skeletons and half a mole. What could be more fun?

So stop by and dissect your own owl pellet on Sunday, January 18 from noon to 2 p.m. in the O’Bannon Great Hall or feel free to e-mail me about future owl pellet dates.

4 Responses

  1. Do you ever do owl pellets on homeschool Tuesdays? If there’s one thing our freaky homeschoolers like to do, it’s play with puke. We’re very hands-on, you know. In fact, we were thinking of doing our own experiment to see if we could eat something whole, and then barf up the fur and bones. But since you’ve got the owl pellets handy, we might do that instead. At least we might if you do it on homeschool Tuesday.

  2. The owl pellet cart is often done on weekends and I find that families really enjoy dissecting pellets together (in fact, it often reminds me of a Norman Rockwell picture).

    Just shoot me an e-mail at letting me know when you and your homeschoolers will be here and I will do my best to hook you up with some pellet fun!

  3. Hmmm…could be a new idea for an educational trunk.

  4. Are the owl pellets very hard? I was thinking of an activiy where you might throw them up in the air and let them come down and bonk you on the head to see how hard they are. Just wondering……

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