Owl Pellets
Sarah, Age 9, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

I have learned a lot about owls and owl pellets. At first I was disgusted at what my teacher was holding up – real bones.  I couldn’t even bear to hear about it, and the thought of actually touching the fur outside the bones, well, I could not touch it, no way.  The fur ball just lay on the paper plate.  Finally, I touched the fur with a wooden stick and gave a bit of a shriek. “Ah!!”  But then by touching the fur and gently removing the foil around it, I got used to it.

Inside, I found two lumps of fur and one was a bit small and the other of course, a bit large.  I took the small one first because I thought it might be a skull.  Mrs. Carrelli said that if you find a skull inside you are lucky.  I got tired of trying to pick at the fur with my fingers and stick so I got a cup and filled it with water.  “Plop,” I dropped the pellet inside the cup.  I was poking and stirring the pellet for the longest time.  Finally the water became dark brown with fur and I was amazed at what I  saw — a S-K-U-L-L!!  Oh my gosh!  That was an exciting and important moment.

I set the skull on a paper towel to dry out and picked at the other blob of fur.  Just then, Mrs. Carrelli announced that it might be better if we didn’t soak the pellets in water.  I was a little surprised and ashamed of myself that I soaked the small pellet in water.  Lots of time passed as I finally unraveled the large pellet and oh, what was in that ball of fur—little, big, shiny, fat, and weird bones all over.  I took a pink piece of paper that had the different types of bones listed on it.  Some of my bones were identical to the bones of a vole.  I looked at a classmate's bones and hers looked like a vole, too.  I kept matching the bones until finally I was sure I had a vole.  So then, I took another piece of paper that had all the vole bones on it put together in the shaped of a vole.  I tried and tried several times to get the shape of the vole and put them together like a puzzle.  But then I became so frustrated I began to worry about this activity.

Finally, it was lunch and recess time.  When we came back, I was so relieved to hear that we could just stick the bones on with glue in any old place.  So, I decided to put all the bones that looked alike into different groups.  I dug into the fur just to see if there was anything left of it and boy, was there.  I found a bone that could still move.  Wow!  That was a real lucky find.  I also found a part of a spine put together.  That was amazing, too! But in the end, I think everyone had a skull.  Only one person, Teddy, had a bird.  My friend Jessica and most of all the other people got a mouse. 

But first, if you don’t quite understand about the whole idea of owl pellets, let me explain. An owl has two stomachs.  Sounds weird doesn’t it?  But it’s true.  If you don’t believe me, you can look it up yourself.  Now back to the two-stomach thing.  When an owl catches a vole or mouse for example, it closes its eyes and just grabs it with its claws.  And it swallows it head first – whole!  Then what in the world is it going to do with its bones?  Good question.  It goes to stomach one first and then sorts out the meat from the bones.  It takes care of the meat and passes the fur and bones to stomach two which then wraps all the fur around the bones.  A few hours later, the owl coughs up the fur and bones so the bones won’t scratch its throat.  Some people raise owls and collect these balls of fur and bones called a “pellet.”  They bake them for 10 hours at 250 degrees to kill all the germs and bacteria, wrap them in foil and sell them.  My teacher bought them so that everyone in the third grade could dissect one when we finished our study of vertebrates and invertebrates.

You can see that I know a lot about owls and owl pellets!

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