Barred owls can be found throughout the eastern United States and Canada, and have more recently expanded their habitat into Alberta, British Columbia, and the American northwest. They roost quietly during the day and hunt silently for small animals—”squirrels, chipmunks, mice, voles, rabbits, birds (up to the size of grouse), amphibians, reptiles, and invertebrates”—after sunset or at night, usually swallowing them whole when caught.

As a result, like all owls, they regurgitate a handy little bundle of what they can’t digest from their prey—teeth, bones, skulls, fur, feathers, etc. That bundle, called an owl pellet, is cast to the forest floor and contributes to the leaf litter, or makes for an awesome science project.

In the video above, we see a 4 or 5-week old barred owl chick regurgitate two pellets. It was filmed in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada by Justin Hoffman. From The Washington Post:

An owl has two stomachs. The first one, called the glandular stomach, produces acids, chemicals and mucus that help separate the digestible and indigestible parts of its prey. The second stomach, called the gizzard, is very muscular and grinds up the meaty part of the meal.

Once the meat has been broken down, the digestible material moves into the owl’s intestine. The bones, fur, feathers and scales remain in the gizzard.

The owl’s gizzard continues to work, compressing the indigestible portion of the meal. After several hours, a gizzard-shaped owl pellet is produced.

Once formed, the pellet moves back into the owl’s glandular stomach. The pellet will remain there until the owl has finished absorbing all of the nutrients from its meal. That can take as long as 10 hours. At that point, the owl will regurgitate (vomit) the pellet and will be ready to eat again.

Hoffman also filmed an adult regurgitating a pellet:

Dissecting a pellet reveals the discarded small animal parts, often showcasing most of a specific animal. If you want to try it yourself, you can find highly-rated owl pellets for dissection from Mountain Home Biological on Amazon. Pair them with National Geographic Readers: Owls.

There are more owl videos on this site, including: The silent flight superpower of a stealthy predator, The Brown Owl’s remarkable head stability, and Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Great Horned Owl Live Cam.

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