Monday, October 1, 2012

Barf and Poop and Other Cool Stuff

"So you actually have owl poop?" Katie asks.

"Owl pellets," Anne corrects.  "It comes out of the owl's mouth.  Kinda like a cat's hairball."

"Well, how often do the owls have these pellets?" Donna wants to know.

We want to know more about owl pellets.  Like, do they have their morning coffee and then--bam--owl pellet?  It is Friday afternoon and we are planning some science lessons with Anne.  Anne is the amazingly wonderful, incredibly talented, knowledgeable science specialist at our school.  Her job is to help the classroom teachers with their science curriculum.  Next month we'll be studying food chains, animal adaptations and predator-prey relationships.  That's where the owl pellet comes in.  Owl=predator.  Pellet=prey.

You see, an owl swallows its prey--most often a rodent--whole.  Then some cool chemistry science stuff happens in the owl's stomach and all the useful parts of the owl's meal are taken away leaving only the bones and hair of the rodent.  So the owl ejects the unwanted parts back out of its mouth. 

Anne lays an owl pellet on the table.  It's about the size of an egg.  She shows us how to carefully pull it apart with tweezers and separate out the skeleton of the rodent.  There's the skull!  There's the thigh bone! Here are some rodent ribs!  They look like tiny fish bones.  She has a template of a rodent skeleton so when we find a bone we can match it up and add it to the picture.  Remember the old game Operation where you had to get all the bones out of the picture?  This is the reverse.  We have to find all the bones and put them back.

We are intrigued.  We want to know more! How often does this happen?  (Several times a day, Anne says.)  Do owls also go to the bathroom? (Yes.)  Have you ever seen an owl eject a pellet? (No.)

"I bet we can find it on YouTube," Jenn says.  And so, a moment later, we are gathered around her laptop watching a baby owl.  Even though we are expecting it, we still all scream when the pellet is ejected--so loud, in fact, that some other teachers rush into the room to see what is happening.  They find us doubled over in tears with laughter. 

Anne has a way of getting teachers excited about science.  Anne loves science.  We love Anne.  Now we love science too.  And owl pellets.  Check it out for yourself: Baby Owl Ejects Pellet

1 comment:

  1. Lovely tribute...and I watched the video and as soon as the pellet came out, I think the owl behind was equally impressed! Caroline