We recently read another dynamite book by Nicola Davies, White Owl, Barn Owl, which introduces young readers to Tyto alba aka the barn owl, a diminutive but ecologically indispensable grasslands apex predator naturally found on every continent but Antarctica.
The young narrator of the story accompanies their grandfather in siting and erecting a nest box. To their (and our) delight, a pair of barn owls make the box their home and birth several owlets. Davies intersperses scientifically accurate but kid-comprehensible information about barn owls with chunks of narrative in a way that doesn’t detract from readers’ enjoyment.
Early on, when the characters are walking across a field, looking for a suitable location for the nest box, the narrator spots an assemblage of
sausage-shaped blobs beneath a solitary old tree. When he remarks to his grandfather that they seem to resemble animal droppings, his grandfather explains that they’re something a bit different. At this point, readers learn about owl pellets, the regurgitated, agglomerated indigestible remains of owls’ meals.
In the photos included in this post, you can see one of our newest students, Mac T., working on an owl pellet of his very own! Owl pellet dissection is a staple of many elementary schools science lesson plans and it’s relatively easy to obtain sterilized owl pellets (which consist primarily of rodent bones and fur). After they’ve been allowed to soak in water for a few minutes, they’re ready to be pried apart to reveal the bones within!