Pellets from Tuas: 2. Bone fragments in the pellets

On18th January 2015 four pellets of varying sizes (400-450 x 20-30 mm) and shapes (roundish to oval) were collected by Melinda Chan from Tuas (above) LINK. They were not fresh, probably a number of days old. Each was covered with hairs. They were relatively soft in texture and easily dismantled. One clearly showed the presence of bleached bone fragments on the surface.

The pellets were soaked in water for a few hours. A disinfectant (dettol) was added as a precaution against the presence of pathogenic organisms. The softened pellets were then broken up and the bleached bone fragments carefully removed with forceps. The fragments were then soaked in hydrogen peroxide overnight to beach them after which they were dried and photographed.

Three of the pellets had a total of 24 bone fragments, with one pellet having only a single piece (above). The fourth pellet had a high number of 55 fragments (below). These include jaw bones, tiny teeth, pieces of bones with holes, etc.

We believe that these pellets came from chicks of the Black-shouldered Kites (Elanus caeruleus) that were nesting in one of the wayside trees nearby. An adult kite was earlier photographed picking a pellet from the nest and dropping it two trees away (below).

Young chicks in the nest were earlier seen being fed with meat ripped off freshly caught prey, sometimes with limited number of bones, at other times with more bones (below).

Most of the prey taken by the kites and owls there were rodents as remains of their dried carcasses were common on the ground. However, the presence of round holes in some of the bone fragments and the presence of numerous teeth cast doubts to them belonging to rodents.

Credits: Chan Yoke Meng (images of Black-shouldered Kite), Melinda Chan (pellet) & YC Wee (images of pellet and bone fragments). Scale in cm (pellets) and mm (bones).

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