Remains of the night

Out Madaket way, a row of arbor vitae had been cut back recently because they were crowding the road. Underneath were dozens of bodies. Was it the work of a serial killer? No, some owls had been feeding.
Pellets are what these regurgitated masses of prey vomited up by birds are called. A number of species expel pellets, but owl pellets are the best known. Since owls often eat in the same place night after night, the pellets can pile up, and, in addition, their digestive juices aren’t as strong as, for instance, diurnal raptors, so bones are preserved whole.
And sharp as in these mouse jaws. Owls hack up entire skeletons along with the fur of their meal. The pellets are regularly used in both school biology classes for dissection and by biologists studying owl predation.
At the beginning of the new year, I will be presenting a series of posts about owls right here in Brooklyn (oh, yes) and maybe some of those other boroughs, too. Stay tuned for “Owl Week.”

15 Responses to “Remains of the night”

  1. 1 Out walking the dog December 6, 2010 at 8:59 am

    Alas, poor mousey … Okay, you MUST be back in Nantucket, yes? What a thrilling find. Looking forward to more owl posts. Do you know Bruce Yolton at He has been posting lovely photos and video of what appears to be the sole remaining eastern screech owl in Central Park. He also posted photos & video of a Northern Saw-whet owl in the park a week or so ago. You might enjoy.

  2. 3 Elizabeth | The Natural Capital December 6, 2010 at 6:10 pm

    One December when I was visiting my parents there was a barred owl regularly hanging out over their driveway — made for easy pellet collection. We found lots of little bones but never whole skulls. Very cool!

  3. 4 Cathy December 15, 2010 at 9:34 am

    That owl pellet is amazing. Picture here worth only slightly more than your words.

  4. 5 mthew March 11, 2015 at 8:18 pm

    Reblogged this on Backyard and Beyond and commented:

    Owl Pellets: this 5th anniversary highlight reminds me I have a bunch of these in the freezer still…

  5. 6 elwnyc March 11, 2015 at 10:56 pm

    Great minds… I still have one in my freezer too.

  6. 7 Daniel Iván Vela Padilla April 7, 2016 at 5:02 pm

    These pictures belongs to you ?, Can I use the first one for a publication in a facebook page?. Obviously putting your information in the caption.

    • 8 mthew April 7, 2016 at 5:06 pm

      Yes, these are my photos, and yes, you may use the first one if you link back to the original. Thank you for asking.

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