Owls Use Dung to “Fish” for Beetles

Burrowing owls have an affinity for the dung of other animals. Their underground nests and surrounding areas are carpeted with the stinky stuff. Now a team of researchers has found at least one reason why all this fecal matter matters to the owls: It’s bait for dung beetles, the owls’ favorite grub.

The research, reported in today’s issue of the science journal Nature, demonstrates that burrowing owls (Athene cunicularia) deliberately use mammal dung as a tool to reel in a meal—and in the process substantially increase the number of dung beetles they eat.