The owl files – Chapter 4: What has she been eating . . .

13 May 2023

What has she been eating .   .   .

First – a bit about owl pellets

In my previous update, I mentioned that I had collected the owl pellets from the female’s ‘chilling’ spot under the overhang of the Function Room roof. Unlike most other predatory birds, owls do not tear the meat from the carcass but typically swallow the whole animal – fur, feathers, skeleton, claws, exo-skeletons of insects etc., in other words – THE LOT! Inside the owl’s stomach, only the meat is digested, and all the other material is compacted into a pellet which the owl then regurgitates (brings up) – usually in the early evening before the bird goes off to hunt again. Dissecting pellets therefore gives a great record of what the owl has fed on the previous evening.

Dissecting the twelve pellets collected produced the following:

7 Vlei Rats (including 4 young animals); 2 Mole Rats; 4 Multi-mammate mice; 1 Four-striped Grass Mouse; at least 7 ‘Parktown Prawns’ (or King Crickets); at least three beetles, and a Freshwater Crab.

What was particularly interesting was that all the Parktown Prawns were males (identified by their ‘horned’ lower mandibles), and that the crab was only the second time that I have recorded this as prey of the Delta owls – this in over forty years!

By Geoff Lockwood