Dissecting Owl Pellets

Suggested Grades

5+ (although, I do know of a grade two class that did this)


Students will examine owl pellets and what their diet consisted of, specifically rodents. This will further their understanding of simple food chains as well as bone structure and identification.


  • owl pellets, you can order them from many teacher resource organizations online
  • paper plates
  • egg cartons to home discoveries
  • sharp dissecting tools
  • tweezers
  • latex gloves
  • dust masks
  • owl pellets-can be shared within a group
  • pencil and paper
  • diagram of a rodent skeletal system photocopied for every student


  • Hand out owl pellets and place on paper plates.
  • Ask students to examine their owl pellet, what do they notice?
  • Ask students to carefully pull apart owl pellets with their hands, separate bones and other fragments with tweezers. Place separated items in egg cartons.
  • Using the diagram of the rodent skeleton, students then try to identify the bones. Record all the different types of bones found. Who has the most bones?
  • Students try to identify all the other pieces found in the pellet. Record.
  • Share the discoveries with the class by having every student walk around and examine each others’ work area.
  • Pool all of the bones that the students found and try to assemble a whole skeleton of a rodent.


Be sure to get your owl pellets from a reputable source (ie. not from a farm), since there is a danger of hantavirus in owl pellets. As an extra precaution, provide students with masks and latex gloves.