Sunday, December 18, 2011

What is a pellet?

For those of you who’ve been watching Dakota’s progress you probably noticed that once he started eating solid foods he also began casting pellets. What, you might ask however, is a pellet?

Owls and other raptors, as you may know, maintain a diet primarily, if not exclusively, of protein. In other words, they eat other animals. Raptors are unlike humans who can cut, cook, and otherwise prepare our food to eliminate the indigestible portions. They also differ from carnivores like wolves that can tear the meat away from indigestible things like bones. They often feed on small animals like rodents and smaller birds. Weeding out the digestible from the indigestible parts of small animals like these when you only have a beak and talons to do so with isn’t always easy. The solution that raptors have come up with is casting pellets.

As a raptor digests its meal, its body separates these indigestible parts such as bones and fur. This material binds together and is later expelled through an action that very much looks like the bird is vomiting. They are not vomiting however, and it is not the same thing as a cat expelling a hairball either. Many people at one point in their lifetimes, whether it was in science class or just for fun, have dissected owl pellets. If you haven’t had the pleasure, these pellets appear as small forms of bound up fur. Often you can see small bones if you look closely. For those with strong stomachs we’ve attached the proof that Dakota is eating well and progressing better than we could have hoped for.

Dakota’s veterinarian plans to do another thorough exam on Monday complete with further blood work. We hope for good news from analysis of the results and will be sure to pass it along as soon as we can.

Dakota began casting pellets (complete ones) only two days after beginning solid foods
(the first note looks like it says 2/15/11 but it actually is 12/15/11)

On Sunday, December 18th, Dakota cast his 4th pellet! This is holiday cheer for those who work with wildlife!

When examined closely, you can find bones from small animals bound up in the fur. This is Dakota's 3rd pellet, in which you can see small bones from the mice he began getting on Tuesday, December 13th

This display was made for WINC to use for display and educational purposes. It shows examples of some of the things you might find if you were to dissect a typical pellet


  1. Well, it looks like Dakota is eating better, from the looks of the pellets. Good job, Dakota. Glad to hear positive news about him; keep us all posted.

  2. Wow, following this wonderful Dakota saga is really giving us an education. So happy to hear how well he is doing!

  3. Thanks for the update and information about pellets. We are so happy to hear that Dakota is doing better. He looked like a pretty sick owl last week. Hopefully your new blood tests will show great improvement. Thanks for keeping us updated.

  4. I am so glad he is doing well! Please keep us posted, I check the website a couple times a week! Merry Christmas to everyone! God Bless and I am rooting for you DAKOTA!!!

  5. Never knew about pellets. Can't wait to learn more about wildlife as a volunteer with WINC in 2012. I'm very happy that Dakota is doing so well!

  6. Thanks for this information...its so enlighting...Hang in there sure have the "grit" My guess is...the Universe wanted you around for good educational purposes still. You did good.Stay strong now...:)