With owl pellets so well documented, I started with this one - approximately 55mm long and 30mm wide in the middle and consisting of greyish fur with some emergent bones. The habitat (under a couple of tall trees in a suburban location where I have heard tawny owls) plus the overall size, form and structure/content, lead me to ID it as a tawny owl pellet.
|The owl pellet|
|Field vole lower jaw - note the toothless curved area (diastema) on the right|
|Field vole lower jaw - note the alternating loops of the teeth|
|Bank vole lower jaw - note the opposite loops of the teeth|
|A long bone of a small mammal, presumably one of the voles. The tiny yellowish spike near the upper left side of the bone is the chaeta (bristle) of an earthworm.|
|A tiny bone - assumed to be a vole 'toe' bone|
Now, onto the blackbird pellet. Firstly how do I know it's a blackbird pellet? Well, there the size (about 20mm long) and clear presence of invertebrate food (see below), but it was also found in my garden under one of the bird's favourite perches, and to make it even easier, I saw it deposit the pellet! So, what was in it?
|A fragment of insect cuticle|
|The same fragment from the inside|
These are only single examples of pellets (do blackbird pellets often contain a large proportion of millipede remains?), so I can draw few conclusions beyond simply being interested in what could be found. However, I have kept the resulting bits (my wife is so proud...) and will look out for more to see if more data can be gathered. I've also found a nearby otter (Lutra lutra) latrine with numerous spraints, and have a copy of Conroy et al. (2005), so don't be too surprised if a future post invoves close-ups of the contents of otter poo...
Conroy, J.W.H., Watt, J., Webb, J.B. & Jones, A. (2005). A Guide to the Identification of Prey remains in Otter Spraint (3rd ed.). The Mammal Society, Southampton.
Thomas, L. & Shields, C. (2008). Guide to British Owls and Owl Pellets. FSC, Preston Montford.
Yalden, D.W. (2009). The Analysis of Owl Pellets (4th ed.). The Mammal Society, Southampton.