Many animals experience digestion, where food is broken down and distributed through the body and things that cannot be used are removed. However, owls are different. Owls have two ways of getting rid of waste from their food that are as different as day and night.
There is a distinct difference between owl poop and owl pellets. Though both are forms of excreting waste from the body, they are very different processes that should not be confused with one another. In this article, we will cover common questions for both while explaining how to differentiate between the two.
The short answer to this question is yes, owls do poop. The longer answer is that while owls poop, it is not their only way of removing waste from their bodies.
Like most birds flying in the skies around your neighborhood, owl poop is a white somewhat slimy substance. One primary indicator that you may have an owl roosting in your barn or shed is the wood covered in this white substance.
Since poop is the result of food going through the digestion process, it will likely have a foul odor. Owls are carnivores (which means their diet consists of only meat), so their poop may smell like the remains of dead animals.
Unlike humans, whose digestion process begins with chewing, owls’ digestion process doesn’t begin until the esophagus. In lieu of teeth, owls swallow food whole, and it moves down the esophagus to the stomach. In the first part of the stomach, mucus and enzymes start to digest parts of their food.
The second part of an owl’s stomach is where the difficult process begins. This part of the stomach separates the food into contents that can be digested further and those things that cannot. The food that can be digested is crushed by the stomach before it moves to the small and large intestines (where nutrients are absorbed to be used) and then to the cloaca where it stays until the owl is ready to release the waste as poop.
No, owls cannot poop out of their mouths. If you notice an owl regurgitating something out of its mouth that is dark in color, it is an owl pellet, not poop.
Since there are parts of their food that cannot be digested, owls’ second part of their stomach (known as a gizzard or ventriculus) captures the things in their food that their bodies cannot digest. This includes things such as beaks, feathers, fur, bones, or teeth.
Once these items are in the gizzard, they get packed into a tight curd (or ball) that then gets pushed back into the first part of the stomach and up the esophagus. The owl will then regurgitate these items out of their mouth.
No, their gizzard will catch the bones before they can make it any further into the digestive system. If you notice what you think is an owl dropping and it has bones in it, it is an owl pellet.
Owl pellets are black chunks about an inch in size that contain beaks, feathers, fur, bones, and teeth, which may be visible in the pellet. As it dries, an owl pellet will start to look gray. Unlike owl poop, owl pellets also do not have a scent to them because it is undigested food.
However, it is important to note that while they are closer to vomit than poop, owl pellets are not quite an owl’s throw-up. Owl pellets are similar to cats regurgitating hairballs because they also cannot digest fur.
There isn’t much we can learn from owls and their poop nor are there many environmental benefits to owl poop other than to help the owl get rid of waste. Pellets, on the other hand, tell us a lot.
Owl pellets have environmental uses like housing bacteria, fungus, and other things that can break down the contents of owl pellets. Insects often lay larvae in the fur found in owl pellets as well to protect the larvae.
On top of environmental uses, scientists can collect pellets to study. An owl pellet can tell scientists more about the environment that owls live in such as what food is available, what their diet mostly consists of, and what animals may use the pellet for shelter and food.
Owls won’t poop until their cloaca is full. Typically, owls will poop around once per day. Owls also tend to only produce one pellet a day but may lay them in the same roosting spot, so many can be found in one area.
Owls can poop while they are in flight but often will not. Many owls prefer to poop as they are leaving a perch or roost because it makes them lighter for the flight they have ahead.