Barn Owl Pellets

My mum was out walking the dogs the other evening when a Barn Owl flew over her head. She noted where it landed and came home to tell me.

The next day we went out and searched around the bottom of the tree, realising that this must be a regular roost as the ground surrounding the tree was littered with owl pellets in varying stages of decomposition.

On closer inspection the grass and fallen logs close to the tree were scattered with tens of skulls and bones from previous pellets.



It’s half term and most of the week it has been raining heavily so dissecting these pellets was an interesting thing to do

The pellets contained complete skulls and a few broken ones, as well as hundreds of tiny bones.


The pellets then went to Linda and Bob who are much better at identifying bones than me.

The results were:

The 38 skulls and upper palate were

a) Common Shrew 1

b) Pygmy Shrew 1

c) Rat 0

d) Wood Mouse 4

e) Field Vole 32

And the 53 half lower jaws were

a) Common Shrew 1

b) Pygmy Shrew 1

c) Rat 1

d) Wood Mouse 4

e) Field Vole 46

Even with the wet weather, this barn owls seems to be eating well

One thing I noticed was the different length in teeth. Rodents, like wood mice and voles  have a single pair of growing incisors in both the upper and lower jaw that must be kept short by gnawing. Their incisors are used for a range of functions such as bitting through wood, the skin of fruit and nuts, as well as small insects.

Rodents don’t have canine teeth like many other mammals, they have a diastema (large gap) between their incisors and premolars. The gap allows them to move their food from their cheeks for continuous eating.


IMG_8096side viewskullteeth

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About Alex White - Appletonwild

This is my diary of the wildlife where I live in Oxfordshire, and sometimes the places I visit. My passion is for British wildlife, especially Badgers and Hares. This year my debut book "Get Your Boots On" was published I am a keen amateur photographer. All the photographs on this blog are taken by myself unless stated otherwise. I am a member of A Focus on Nature, the network for Young Nature Conservationists, BBOWT, The Oxon Mammal group and The Oxfordshire Badger Group. You can also follow me on Twitter @Appletonwild Instagram appletonwild
This entry was posted in Animals, Barn owl, birds, Blogging, Books, Citizen science, Environment, Get Your Boots On, Local patch, mammals, nature, Nature Books, outdoors, Oxfordshire, Stay Wild, Uk nature, Uncategorized, Wildlife and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to Barn Owl Pellets

  1. Pingback: Barn Owl Pellets –

  2. parsnip says:

    I have been reading but not commenting on your wonderful blog. When I was walking around the trees of Morro Bay I saw pellets but not sure if they could hold a mouse or vole head ? It was a very long time ago.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Murtagh's Meadow says:

    In Ireland voles are relatively recent comers so barn owls would have relied a lot on mice and rats. In a more recent study from county Cork where voles are now abundant the owls were mostly taking them and white toothed shrews (another recent arrival here).

    Liked by 1 person

  4. zanyzigzag says:

    My goodness, I had no idea field voles were so common! This was fascinating, thanks for sharing the results!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’ve never seen an owl pellet. What an interesting story they tell with all those details. Good luck getting a view, and maybe picture, of the owl.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Very cool – morbid but fascinating. I love your attention to detail.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. What a wonderful find! I just love dissecting pellets!

    Liked by 1 person

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