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Ecosystems: Study of Owl Pellets. Food Chains/Food Webs. What is an ecosystem?. Imagine yourself standing in the middle of a forest observing everything around you. You will see plants, animals, soil, sunlight, air, water, minerals, and nutrients.

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Ecosystems study of owl pellets

Ecosystems: Study of Owl Pellets

Food Chains/Food Webs

What is an ecosystem
What is an ecosystem?

  • Imagine yourself standing in the middle of a forest observing everything around you.

  • You will see plants, animals, soil, sunlight, air, water, minerals, and nutrients.

  • It is a living community which depends on each member and its surrounding environment.

  • Every participant is important and if one becomes more dominant than the others, the ecosystem can develop problems.

What do ecologists do
What do ecologists do?

  • Ecologists are scientists that study complex ecosystems.

  • They try to understand, from a scientific point of view, what keeps everything living and existing in a balanced and stable way for very long periods of time.


  • These are the living things which take the non-living matter from the environment, such as minerals and gases and uses them to support life.

  • Green plants are considered producers and are at the beginning of the food chain.


  • These are living things that need the producers to be their food.

Types of consumers
Types of Consumers:

  • Herbivores- animals who eat only plants.

  • Carnivores- animals who eat other animals.

  • Omnivores- animals who eat both animals and plants.

  • Decomposers- living things that feed off dead plants and animals.

What is a population
What is a population?

  • A population is a group of organisms of the same species that live in a particular area.

  • The number of organisms in a population change over time because of the following:

    births, deaths, immigration, and emigration.

Factors that limit population growth
Factors that limit population growth: referred to as population growth.

  • Food and water supplies-if there is not enough, competition among the individuals of the population would develop.

  • Light- those plants not getting enough light will not grow strong and may even die.

  • Space- if there is not enough space, animals compete for the limited space.

  • Predators referred to as population growth.- higher populations attract more, when number of prey decreases, so does the number of predators.

  • Diseases- can have an impact on birth rate and growth rate.

  • Parasitism- relationship where one organism feeds on the remains of another organism.

Predator: referred to as population growth.

  • They are animals that prey on other animals.

  • The web of life in Nature is carefully balanced and designed.

  • Each life-form on our planet is totally dependent upon every other life-form, either directly, or indirectly.

Owls: referred to as population growth.

  • They are predators.

  • They catch, kill, and eat other animals in order to survive.

  • They seize their prey, usually a rodent or other small mammal, and kill it with their powerful feet. If the prey is small enough, it is swallowed whole.

Owl pellets
Owl Pellets: referred to as population growth.

  • The owl’s digestive system uses the nutritious portions of the prey.

  • The undigested parts, such as hair, bones, claws, teeth, etc. are regurgitated in the form of pellets.

  • These are found at roosting sites.

  • Usually 2 pellets at day are regurgitated. It takes between 18 and 20 hours after a meal for the pellet to come up.

  • The soft parts of the prey are dissolved by enzymes. referred to as population growth.

  • The relatively weak stomach muscles of the bird form the undigested fur, bones, feathers, etc. into wet, slimy pellets. Even the most fragile bones are usually preserved unbroken.

  • The pellets are produced and regurgitated, not only by owls, but also by hawks, eagles, and other raptors which swallow their prey whole or in large pieces.

Predictions: referred to as population growth.

  • The number and species of mammals found in the pellets.

  • The origin of the pellets.

  • The characteristics of the ecosystem in which the pellet-maker fed.

Pellet dissection
Pellet Dissection: referred to as population growth.

  • Place the pellet on a sheet of white paper.

  • Using gloves and forceps, separate the bones of the animals from the fur and/or feathers.

  • Clean the bones of debris and sort them according to type.

  • Using the charts and keys identify prey mammals.

  • Record the kinds and numbers of prey you find in your pellet on your data sheet.

  • Discuss the class record.

Results: referred to as population growth.

  • Use class data to prepare a graph of animals found in owl pellets.

  • Sort bones and lay out bones of a skeleton on a flat sheet of paper. Glue bones of an animal together to form a skeleton.

  • Make a collections of drawings or specimens of organisms in undissected owl pellets.

Collecting owl pellets
Collecting Owl Pellets: referred to as population growth.

  • Can be collected in old barns.

  • Hundreds of pellets can sometimes be found on the floor beneath the roost of a family of barn owls.

  • Barn owls are most common in areas of open meadows and fields where large numbers of small mammals are active at night.

  • Pellets that have been collected should be dried and stored in a closed container and fumigated to prevent the growth of fur-eating insects.