The Mammal Society's National Owl Pellet Survey has been running since 1997, and has gathered a huge amount of data. The survey is run by a group of volunteer pellet analysers across the British Isles, following on from excellent work by Alasdair Love until 2012.
What are owl pellets?
Owl pellets are small, rounded collections of the indigestible parts of small mammals that the owls have eaten, including fur and bones. They are regurgitated by the owl and usually dropped to the ground below the nest area.
Where can you find owl pellets?
Barn Owl pellets are found frequently around the nesting sites, particularly in farm buildings and around oak and ash trees. The owls often leave clues of their presence, such as dense white droppings. The ground can be searched near the trees and around farm buildings, especially where you can see the droppings. The barn owl produces large sized pellets (30mm - 70mm long) that are smooth and rounded.
Tawny Owl pellets are found in wooded areas, often in tall, mature conifers. They produce medium sized pellets (20mm - 50mm) in length with a bumpy surface.
Little Owl pellets can be often found in their habitats of hedgerows and parks. They roost in old oak and ash trees as well as willow pollards. The pellets are small (15mm - 40mm long), elongated and pointed.
Why do we analyse owl pellets?
Owl pellets are important as they include the bones of numerous small mammals (the mice, voles and shrews), and can therefore be used to get information on local distributions of small mammals, and importantly can be used as a tool to highlight changes in abundance through changes in relative abundance in the pellets. If owl pellets are analysed over a period of time, we can observe variations and trends in numbers to spot any declines.
Where to send your pellets for analysis
We have now recruited a group of volunteers who will receive samples, analyse them and submit the results to us on a regular basis. If you have any owl pellets to submit for analysis, please send them to the nearest volunteer to you!
Volunteer analysers for Wales needed! - Email firstname.lastname@example.org sign up if you live in Wales.
Berkshire - Nick Sheller email@example.com
Hampshire - Sheila Dyason firstname.lastname@example.org
East Sussex - Paul Webster email@example.com
Cornwall - Alex Pearce Alexfirstname.lastname@example.org
Wiltshire - Paul Wexler Paul.Wexler@wiltshire.ac.uk
Somerset - Gaina Cowley email@example.com
Lincolnshire -Chris Manning, firstname.lastname@example.org
Staffordshire - Kate McRae email@example.com
Derbyshire - Jake Robinsonbio.firstname.lastname@example.org
East of England
Bedfordshire - Kim Goodger email@example.com
Hertfordshire - Judith Cox firstname.lastname@example.org
Suffolk - Tracey Kay email@example.com
Yorkshire and the Humber
West Yorkshire - Heather Mikhail Heather.Mikhail@leeds.gov.uk
Tyne and Wear - Barry Robinson firstname.lastname@example.org
Northumberland - Veronica Carnell email@example.com
Lancashire - Heather Hilton Hbadger1209@aol.com
Lancashire - Zoe Foster firstname.lastname@example.org
Lancashire - Sharon Burke email@example.com
Merseyside - James Bladon firstname.lastname@example.org
Merseyside - Terry Williams email@example.com
Cheshire - Adam Brown firstname.lastname@example.org
Mike Brown, Bridgend email@example.com
Amanda Wilson, Tayside firstname.lastname@example.org
Shelagh Macmillan, Renfrewshire email@example.com
Melanie Brown, Dumfries and Galloway firstname.lastname@example.org
Emma Cunningham, County Down email@example.com
For more information about the survey, please email firstname.lastname@example.org