Gas Pains

Tom grew up in Milwaukee, bartended in Wauwatosa in the '70s and moved here in 1984.

Commentary, observations and musings about the outdoors, life in general and maybe Tosa politics and personalities will be the order of the day. He savors a lively debate as much as terrific cooking.

What's for Dinner?

Biology, Raptors, Owl Pellets, Digestion

Ever find an owl pellet? 

Check this out...

Most of the owl pellets I've found are in the 1.5 to 2 inch range.  The pellet above is longer than 4 inches.  It's huge.  This has got to be the Mother of all owl pellets.

Upon examination you would note it is dry to the touch, light in weight, without discernible scent and is composed of compacted hair and teensy, tiny, little bones.  Rodent bones I suspect. So when, where and how do these curious surprises come about?

It works like this.

Owls are not able to chew their prey and unlike most other birds they do not have a crop for storing food.  Therefore, what an owl kills is passed directly to their digestive system.  The first chamber of the bird's stomach is called the proventriculus.  The acids and enzymes there begin the process of digestion.  From there the prey passes to the gizzard or ventriculus.  This functions as a way point for the holding of indigestible matter - namely fur, feathers, bones, etc.  Everything else passes through the small and large intestine to the cloaca and is ultimately expelled through the vent.  With the exception of the ostrich birds do not have a bladder so whatever is excreted from the vent is largely acid - that's the white stuff that makes up bird poop.

Back to the ventriculus.  All of the undigested stuff that remains there coincidentally blocks the bird's digestive system so the bird cannot feed again until it is expelled.  Muscular contractions in the gizzard compress the contents into a pellet.and send back to the proventriculus from which it is regurgitated.  The pellet above may have come from a different bird of prey but either way I would have given anything to see the raptor that hacked this up.  Big pellet - big bird!

When I have some extra time I'm going to dissect this curiosity and see if I can learn more about the raptor's dietary choices.  I'll report back with my findings.

I hope this post got you thinking about what you're having for lunch.  Bon Appétit...

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