National Owl Pellet Survey


The Mammal Society's National Owl Pellet Survey is a very quick and easy way for you to help map British small mammal populations. We need you to collect owl pellets when you're out and about and to send them, along with the date and location, to one of our volunteer analysers.

The survey has been running since 1997, and has gathered a huge amount of data. The survey is run by a group of volunteer pellet analysers across the British Isles, following on from excellent work by Alasdair Love until 2012.


What are owl pellets?

Owl pellets are small, rounded collections of the indigestible parts of small mammals that the owls have eaten, including fur and bones. They are regurgitated by the owl and usually dropped to the ground below the nest area.

Where can you find owl pellets?

Barn Owl pellets are found frequently around the nesting sites, particularly in farm buildings and around oak and ash trees. The owls often leave clues of their presence, such as dense white droppings. The ground can be searched near the trees and around farm buildings, especially where you can see the droppings. The barn owl produces large sized pellets (30mm - 70mm long) that are smooth and rounded.

Tawny Owl pellets are found in wooded areas, often in tall, mature conifers. They produce medium sized pellets (20mm - 50mm) in length with a bumpy surface.

Little Owl pellets can be often found in their habitats of hedgerows and parks. They roost in old oak and ash trees as well as willow pollards. The pellets are small (15mm - 40mm long), elongated and pointed.

Why do we analyse owl pellets?

Owl pellets are important as they include the bones of numerous small mammals (the mice, voles and shrews), and can therefore be used to get information on local distributions of small mammals, and importantly can be used as a tool to highlight changes in abundance through changes in relative abundance in the pellets. If owl pellets are analysed over a period of time, we can observe variations and trends in numbers to spot any declines.


A full report on the survey results up to 2005 is available to download here. The 2009 report is available here.

Where to send your pellets for analysis

We have now recruited a group of volunteers who will receive samples, analyse them and submit the results to us on a regular basis. If you have any owl pellets to submit for analysis, please send them to the nearest volunteer to you!




South East

Berkshire - Nick Sheller

Hampshire - Sheila Dyason

East Sussex - Paul Webster

South West

Cornwall - Alex Pearce

Wiltshire - Paul Wexler

Somerset - Gaina Cowley

East Midlands

Lincolnshire -Chris Manning,

Staffordshire - Kate McRae

Derbyshire - Jake

East of England

Bedfordshire - Kim Goodger

Hertfordshire - Judith Cox

Suffolk - Tracey Kay

Yorkshire and the Humber

West Yorkshire - Heather Mikhail

North East

Tyne and Wear - Barry Robinson 

Northumberland - Veronica Carnell

North West

Lancashire - Heather Hilton

Lancashire - Zoe Foster

Lancashire - Sharon Burke 

Merseyside - James Bladon

Merseyside - Terry Williams

Cheshire - Adam Brown



Mike Brown, Bridgend



Amanda Wilson, Tayside

Shelagh Macmillan, Renfrewshire

Melanie Brown, Dumfries and Galloway 


Northern Ireland

Emma Cunningham, County Down


For more information about the survey, please email