Pellets are actually regurgitated food waste.
Barn Owl droppings are often called ‘whitewash’ because that is just what it looks like. A thick white substance dripped generously down from favourite perches is usually the most obvious sign of a Barn Owl roost or nest site.
Pellets are regurgitated remains of the prey (bones and fur) and although these might look like some type of dropping, they are not. Barn Owls cough up pellets, which are often as long as a man’s thumb, and usually much wider. They are black and shiny when fresh, but they gradually fade and lose their sheen with age.
Eventually the fur and bone contents of a pellet become more apparent – this is what the owl has rejected, after swallowing and digesting its meal whole.
These are different – so what else might it be?
Little Owls make very little pellets, long and grey - they make contain fur or feathers but often they are gritty or sandy (Little Owls eat lots of earthworms) and have visible insect remains such as beetle wing cases. Kestrel pellets tend to be grey, short, stumpy, with a hairy tail and the bones inside are usually part digested. Many types of bird make pellets. Rooks may leave ones full of grain husks.
Pigeon or Stock Dove pellets will be recognisably different to Barn Owl ‘whitewash’ which is never lumpy, always smooth and all white. The spattered droppings of Little Owl are pinkish.
Do you have Barn Owls?
Are you concerned about it? Do you consider it a problem? Would you like to help them? Let us know! We welcome enquiries from everyone, but especially farmers, landowners, developers and anybody considering a barn renovation or conversion. You can even send pellets to BOCN for identification, or contact us if you have any more questions or need to organise a survey.