Sunday, February 13, 2011

Bones, Fur and Leftovers

Nolan dissecting owl pellet
Pouring rain on Saturday was a blessing in disguise as homework was very much on the agenda for this weekend. With only a few days left to complete a school project we all chipped in and helped Nolan. Luckily, this was a parent participation activity, so we all got to enjoy the fun. Having said that, Nolan really did do a lot of the work himself and completed his experiment single-handedly. Nolan's chosen subject for the Nanoose Bay Elementary Science Fair was 'What is in an owl pellet?'

Owl pellet

Owls usually eat their prey whole. The nutrients are absorbed in the stomach, and the undigested parts that are of little nutritional value, such as; bones, teeth, skulls fur or feathers, are compressed into pellets and regurgitated. By dissecting these pellets you can discover what a particular owl has been eating. For many years I have kept a bag of Barn Owl and Little Owl pellets for just such an occasion. However, during a spring clean two years ago I must have thrown them out, so we got our pellets form the North Island Wildlife Association:

After microwaving two pellets for 3 minutes and 20 seconds, Nolan soaked two pellets in warm water before beginning his dissection. We were extremely impressed with Nolan's patience and attention to detail, as he methodically scrutinized every little bone that he discovered. It took about an hour to go through the first pellet and Nolan cleaned each bone in a small dish of water before placing them on a plastic lid. 

Bones from pellet
Once both pellets had been dissected the bones were then boiled to remove any small pieces of skin or feathers. We then glued and presented the bones on a display chart. Then we tackled  the display board. We were very happy to have Mom's help on this part, as she added a wonderful artistic feel to the project. We had our photos developed at Shoppers Drug Mart in Parksville before laying out the final draft. It was about 07:00pm before we had it completed, and though we were all getting a little tired, we were very proud of all our efforts.  We sure had a great time learning and working together. Who knows what mark Nolan will get on the day but in our books he gets a straight A: 10 out of 10!

Owl pellet display chart

Nice work Nolan


  1. Proud of you guys!!!AWESOME JOB!!!

  2. Thanks Cher! It was lots of fun and very interesting to help out on this project.

  3. Great job Nolan! Science seems to be a dying endeavor. FMF

  4. I'm glad you posted the correct time for microwaving these Rich. You never want to dissect an undercooked owl pellet...
    Congrats to Nolan - the finished project looks brilliant!


  5. I'm really impressed by Nolan's project. Not bad for a drummer.

  6. No Kidding, though Nolan's facial expression dissecting an owl pellet and drumming are about the same:)INTENSE!