Recognising roosts – kookaburra and chough

Many times in the forest I come across a patch of bird droppings – is it from an owl roost? Or other birds? How can we tell?

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These photos were taken on Mount Alexander yesterday, September 12. My feet are in the pic for scale. This roost had several pellets which were made up almost entirely of insect exoskeleton fragments.

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So that rules out a Powerful Owl or Barn owl – who tend to have fur and feathers and bones in their pellets. Also the droppings or ‘paint’ while abundant are not as large as those of the Powerful Owl.
When I was studying ornithology at Charles Sturt University in 2008 I picked Laughing Kookaburra for my bird behaviour assignment. We had to watch the birds and create an activity budget – how many minutes hunting, preening, resting – and I followed the birds at dusk here in Porcupine Ridge. They selected a long, bare horizontal branch to roost on, tightly packed together. And underneath was a mess of droppings and pellets much like this one in the pic. White-winged Chough roosts look very very similar.
Another possibility is Boobook – bit one would expect at least a little bit of mammal prey evidence – such as bush rat.
On a final note, at this roost site, near the pellets were these strange regurgitated mud splodges. I have seen these under other bird of prey roosts but cannot imagine what their function is!

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