Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Owl Food

Marge has been keeping tabs on our resident Great Horned Owls in the cemetery. Last week she learned something very interesting about what's on our local owl's menu.

The pair of Great Horned Owls that have been residing in Green-Wood Cemetery for the last four years tend to vary their daytime roosts. The only way that we can locate them is to look for their wash and pellets below their roost. Pellets are the regurgitated indigestible parts of their prey. Biologists sometimes dissect owl pellets to determine the individual's diet. Anyway, Marge was checking the ground below a tree where they have roosted in the past. There were the remains of several pellets that had started to break down from recent rainstorms. Within one she spotted a shiny blue object. On closer inspection she realized that it was the tarsus bone of a bird with a band still attached. Here is a photo:


She called me to try and help figure out what kind of bird the owl had eaten. I'd never seen a band like that used for wild bird banding, so was a little puzzled. Marge thought that, perhaps, it was someone's pigeon, as she remembered seeing an unusual pigeon hanging around the cemetery. Long story short, she located a website that maintains records for racing pigeons and, sure enough, there was a match for band #116, IF SQC, 2010. Marge contacted the owner in Brooklyn with the "good news, bad news" story". The good news is that your bird didn't go very far and its band is in perfect condition. The bad news is that owls loooove dining on racing pigeons.

UPDATE:

On Saturday I lead a trip to Green-Wood Cemetery for the Linnaean Society. While examining some broken up pellets beneath one of the owl roosts we discovered yet another tiny leg bone with the same type of blue band. Apparently these owls are really fond of racing pigeons.

3 comments:

Yojimbot said...

the stupid ones are the first to go!

Matthew said...

Yeah, come on, a racing pigeon being taken by a GHO? The bird was probably already on its last, um, leg.

Starz723 said...

My take on the racing pigeons is that we know the owls go back and forth to Prospect Park. On the way there, there are pigeon coops on top of people's homes. There is one across the street from the cemetery. When a pigeon arrives back at the coop, they sit on top. An easy pick for an owl passing through the night. 2 different known owls roosts and 2 blue bands with different names on it mixed with other pellet debris.
Marge

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