Using Bird Vomit to Uncover History!

Posted on November 22, 2016 by Liesl Ulrich-Verderber

We’ve talked about how whale poop and leech stomachs are helping us learn more about this planet, but how can bird vomit do the same?

Sure, it sounds unsavory, but sometimes the coolest science comes from some less than pretty places! Stay with us now. This could be fascinating!

The Barking Owl or Winking Owl is a nocturnal bird species native to mainland Australia and parts of Papua New Guinea. The presence of these owls is usually revealed by their barking calls.
Source: Julie Edgley // Flickr

So, let’s dive in.

Over the past two centuries, Australia has seen a drastic decrease in its small mammal species. Because there is very little written historical record of what species density once looked like, it’s difficult for scientists so discern the extent of species die off and what populations used to look like.

Here is where the bird vomit comes in. Some bird species, raptors, and most notably owls regurgitate pellets consisting of difficult to digest parts of their prey like bones, teeth, and fur. Over time in caves and other sheltered dwellings, these pellets have amassed to create a record of sorts of the types of small mammal species that one inhabited the region around it. It’s actually quite a remarkable process!

For more on this incredible example of investigative biology, we turn to one of our favorite YouTube channels, The Brain Scoop

Beyond the bird vomit…

So there you have it, that is how bird vomit is helping us learn more about this planet!

To me, it’s still an amazing world because the planet we call home is filled with a natural world from which we can constantly learn and grow. There is never, and probably never will be an end to the incredible discoveries we can make about Earth and it’s inhabitants. There is wonder and awe and inspiration in every one of our backyards. It is up to us, though, to recognize and celebrate it!

Be the one who sees beauty in the little–and maybe kinda gross–things, it actually makes the world a much more fascinating place.

Stay beautiful & keep laughing!

-Liesl

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