Yes, owls vomit bones.
Owls swallow their prey whole or in large pieces, but they cannot digest fur, teeth, bones, or feathers
. The owl’s body separates the digestible and indigestible parts of its prey in the glandular stomach, and then the remaining, indigestible fur, bones, and teeth are compacted into a pellet which the owl spits out. These pellets are known as owl pellets and can be found on the ground near where owls live. The pellets can provide good hints to help identify what an owl has eaten, as skulls, bones, and furs found in an owl pellet can tell us a lot about what owls eat.
Why Do Owls Vomit Bones?
Owls vomit bones because they cannot digest them.
Owls swallow their prey whole or in large pieces, but they cannot digest fur, teeth, bones, or feathers.
The owl’s digestive system has two chambers in their stomachs.
In the first chamber, the glandular stomach or proventriculus, all the digestible parts of an owl’s meal are liquefied.
Then the meal passes into the second chamber, the muscular stomach or gizzard, which grinds down hard structures and squeezes the digestible food into the intestines.
The remaining, indigestible fur, bones, and teeth are compacted into a pellet which the owl spits out.
These pellets are small oval objects that contain skulls, bones, and furs, which can provide good hints to help identify what an owl has eaten.
Owls typically cast one pellet per day, often from the same roosting spot, so you may find large numbers of owl pellets on the ground in a single place.
Are There Any Other Animals That Vomit Bones Or Regurgitate Food In A Similar Way?
Yes, there are several animals that vomit bones or regurgitate food in a similar way.
Here are some examples:
- Birds of prey: Owls and hawks, for example, regurgitate a pellet or casting of the undigested bone, fur, and feathers of prey on a daily basis.
This allows them to rid themselves of the waste they cannot digest prior to eating again.
- Sharks: Sharks also vomit their guts out to clean up.
They eject anything that they should not have consumed, such as bones, feathers, and turtle shells.
- Hyenas: Hyenas have been observed rolling in vomit, likely because they enjoy the undigested hoof, bone, and hair that they find there.
- Cephalopods: While there are no published studies that have directly investigated either vomiting or regurgitation in cephalopods, there is some circumstantial evidence to suggest that they may be capable of vomiting.
- Rodents: Owls and other birds of prey are known to regurgitate pellets containing the undigested teeth, bones, and feathers of prey.
These pellets can contain other unusual items, such as bird bands that were once attached to a smaller species that was consumed by the predator bird.
How Does The Process Of Regurgitating Bones Benefit Owls Or Contribute To Their Survival?
Owls regurgitate the indigestible parts of their prey, such as bones, fur, and feathers, in a single nugget called an owl pellet.
This process of regurgitation benefits owls and contributes to their survival in several ways:
- Digestion: Owls swallow their prey whole, and their digestive system has to deal with bones, fur, and feathers.
The owl’s gizzard performs a sorting operation, where soft tissues pass through to be digested, while indigestible sharp and hazardous bits like bones, teeth, and fur are formed into an oval mass.
- Cleansing: Regurgitating pellets helps to cleanse the digestive tract of owls, removing pathogens and keeping them healthy.
- Hunting: The process of regurgitation often signifies that an owl is ready to eat again.
- Research: Owl pellets are useful to researchers because they can find out quite a bit about an owl’s lifestyle through careful examination of the pellet’s contents.
Since most of the prey’s bones are not actually broken during the attack and the subsequent digestion process, they can be readily identified in the pellet.
Most pellets include a skull or skulls, which makes identification of the prey relatively simple.