The Arboretum has perfect habitats for owls. There is an old barn with a silo for Barns Owls. There are old-growth cottonwoods along the river for Great Horned Owls. There are cavities in Oregon Ashes for Western Screech Owls and Northern Pygmy-Owls. There is a forested hillside with a mix of large Douglas-firs, big-leaf maples, and incense-cedars that attracted a Barred Owl this winter. Within all of the habitats, there are transition zones and open meadows that support an abundance of prey for owls—voles, mice, small birds, etc.

Owls will often spend consecutive days around the same perch from where they will roost during the day and hunt at night Most owls are nocturnal, but Northern Pygmy-Owls mostly hunt by day. Under these roosts, you can often find evidence of an owl’s presence: owl pellets.

Owls usually eat their prey whole or in large pieces. The fur, teeth, bones, or feathers of animals are indigestible. These parts are formed into an oval mass, passed back up the digestive system, and regurgitated some hours later, often while the owl is roosting. These pellets are a joy to find. On the outside, most owl pellets aren’t very remarkable. They are usually furry, matted orbs of hair. On the inside, they are a treasure of interesting bones, teeth, and skulls! Online there are illustrated charts that help identify all of the contents.

If you find it hard to locate an owl pellet, they are for sale. On the internet, I found a place in Baker City called Oregon Owl Pellets that sold large pellets for $3 apiece.

Nature is an inexhaustible source of wonder. Hope to see you out there.

See more of Bryan’s work here.