St. Joseph Middle School students recently studied the digestive process in owls.

Nicole Gooch’s fourth-grade class learned that owls – birds of prey whose nightly diet consists mostly of small rodents, birds and bugs – can’t digest the fur, bones, teeth and insect shells from their food. Instead, the castoff material forms pellets inside an owl, which the animal then spits out.

Gooch’s students dissected a number of such pellets and found out owls have a special organ called a gizzard that allows them to eat their prey whole.

“Owls can eat four to five small animals a night,” Gooch said. “The pellets can show many animals they’ve eaten.”

Multiple skulls and bones are often found in them, and Gooch had the children create charts to classify their bones.

Jeanette Anderton can be reached at

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