Oh my goodness – I have been teaching for ten years but have never dissected owl pellets before… it was amazing! I got the idea from my new favourite science blog www.thesciencepenguin.com – check it out. I downloaded her resources here at the Teachers Pay Teachers website which cost a few quid but was worth every penny. Here’s how it went…
Incase, like me, you were unaware of it – owls cannot digest bones so instead they regurgitate them (I guess a bit like a cat and fur-balls!??!!?) with all of the bones in tact. I managed to acquire some free owl pellets from a local company ‘Owls About Town’ who keep birds of prey for local events. I left the pellets to dry out on the radiator and then half an hour before we began I soaked them in a bowl of water (until they sink) with a few drops of disinfectant . The pellets are much easier to dissect if they are damp.
We then took them out of the water and put them on paper towels on plates ready for dissection.
The children all wore gloves and used cocktail sticks and tweezers to dissect the pellets. They placed the bones onto black paper so that they could see them clearly. I provided children with a bone chart which I downloaded as a pdf here. With the bone chart they were able to identify the prey of the owl – rats and chicks… Eek!!
The children absolutely loved this as you can imagine. They could have kept dissecting pellet after pellet if they had the chance!
Children then completed labelled diagrams of the skeleton and explained what it told them about the owl’s food chain. The sheet was part of the pack I downloaded from TPT resource – as mentioned at the start of this post.
As an extra activity, I also had a range of different feathers of birds of prey. I had labels for each feather and took a picture of the labelled feathers. I then separated them and mixed them up – the children had the challenge of matching the feathers and labels. They then checked what they had thought against the original photo. They loved this activity!