Snowy Owls eat their prey more or less whole,
all. They then cough up the undigestible parts
a pellet later. I made
surveys for pellets out to the South Jetty of the Columbia River during the irruption of 2005-06 and searched
for pellets at
loafing sites. I identified four loafing sites
owls consistently used and where pellets were recovered.
Analysis of the pellet
contents follows below. The results
were also published in Northwest Naturalist [Spring 2007
88(1):12-14]. Scott Carpenter has fascinating pictures of a SJCR
pellets at his photo site. And my
method for handling pellets is included (along
other information) at the SNOWY
Snowy Owl pellet 20051206-2-1
pellets are pretty large and as
can be seen in the above
photograph, the bird that produced this pellet has been eating rodents
and small shorebirds.
Black Rat (Rattus rattus) skull recovered from pellet 20051206-2-1. According
to Verts and Carraway (1998), the average Black Rat is about 35cm long, nose
to tail and weighs about 120g.
|Number of pellets examined = 62
Average length = 8.0 ± 2.0 cm (range = 4.0 to 12.5)
Average width = 3.1 ± 0.4 cm (range = 1.9 to 4.2)
Pellets containing rat bones usually had one rat per
South Jetty owls do some prep of prey before eating.
These are Red Phalarope bones from pellet 20051223-2-5. Large numbers of phalaropes were blown to shore during a series of storms beginning around Dec 20. Many observers have reported watching Snowy Owls catching phalaropes. For a close to full-sized scan of a reassembled phalarope skeleton click here.
The beak in the center was recovered from pellet 20051223-2-4. It has tentatively been identified as jay sp., most probably a Steller's Jay. The other two skulls are American Robin and hesperis-type American Crow (small Pacific Northwest variety).
|Small differently shaped long
bones were found in a pellet
20051212-2-3. The picture on the left
shows a femur and humerus from Black Rat above
and the mystery bone (presumably a humerus)
below. This unknown bone is approximately
75% the length of the rat analog. If we
assume that it is a rodent bone and that size
ratios between rodent species are approximately
proportional, the body length (without tail)
would be about 130mm. This is in
the range for Townsend's Vole (Microtus
found in association with Townsend's Vole
skulls in Snowy Owl pellets produced by the
Newport, Lincoln Co., OR bird seem to be a good
match. The Newport bird also had a Pacific
Jumping Mouse (Zapus trinotatus) and
I have sent photos to Randy Moore at OSU with the hope that he can make comparisons to bones in the OSU collection.
A closeup picture of the unknown bone follows (front and back).
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