Who is Molly?
Molly is a wild barn owl who laid a clutch of eggs in an owl box located in San Marcos, California.
How big is Molly?
She is about 14 inches tall, with a wingspan of about 43 inches. She weighs about one pound.
How old is she?
Molly is about one year old.
What does Molly eat?
Barn owls eat mostly rabbits and rodents (mice, rats, squirrels, gophers). Sometimes they eat reptiles and other birds, depending on what is available.
Can she choke when swallowing something large?
Owls can eat and breathe at the same time, which is how they swallow large animals without choking. She can do this because she has a breathing tube in her tongue.
Is Molly a pet? Is she held in captivity?
Molly is a wild animal who is free. She chose this box as the place for her nest.
Why does it seem like Molly is always sleeping?
Barn Owls are nocturnal. They sleep most during the day and are more active at night.
How long will she stay in the box?
Molly will stay in this box until her young are old enough to fly.
Where does she go when she leaves?
Although Molly doesn’t leave very often, when she’s sitting on her eggs, she goes out a few times per night to defecate and stretch her wings.
Why does Molly sometimes pant and hold her wings open?
Because her nest is in a warm part of the country that gets lots of sun, the owl box has the potential to heat up. Opening and closing her beak is called “gular fluttering” which helps her stay cool. Lifting her wings away from her body is like taking off a sweater.
Where does she get water?
She gets water from the food she eats, which is mostly fresh meat.
How often will Molly lay eggs?
It is common for barn owls to lay one set of eggs (called a clutch) per year. Sometimes they lay a second set which is called “double clutching.”
Is Molly banded?
No, she isn’t.
Does Molly hoot?
Barn owls are one of the few owls that don’t hoot. They emit a screeching sound that many viewers’ cats and spouses find rather interesting. :)
The shape of her face is unusual. Is there a purpose for the heart-shape?
Barn Owls have very distinct, heart-shaped faces with small dark eyes, an elongated beak, no ear tufts, and longer legs. The position of the facial feathers helps direct sound toward her ears with such accuracy that she can hunt in complete darkness.
Is that a scar on Molly’s forehead?
No, Molly has the usual markings common to Barn Owls. The dark, vertical line sometimes visible between her eyes is an area where the feathers meet.
Her feathers are beautiful!
Both Molly and McGee’s multi-colored feathers are a kind of “desert camo”. The gold and gray patterns make them practically invisible during the day when perched in a tree.
Can I have one of the feathers?
No, it is illegal to possess feathers from raptors and other birds, including owls, under the Migratory Bird Act. While this might seem silly, this law protect birds and prevents people from shooting them for their feathers.
When she scratches her head, can she cut herself with her talons?
Barn owls have a serrated comb on the middle claw. So far, scientists believe this to be a grooming adaptation that prevents them from hurting themselves.
What is a pellet?
After she digests food, she coughs up an odorless “pellet” that is made up of bones, feathers, and fur. You can tell she is going to produce a pellet because she looks like she is gagging for a few seconds. She must regurgitate a pellet before she eats anything new because the pellet partially blocks their digestive system. Many science classes dissect these to learn what owls eat.
Curious to see how pellets arrive? Molly shows us here.
Is a pellet the same thing as poop?
Nope. A pellet is non-digestible food like bones and fur which comes up her throat and out her mouth. When Molly goes out at night, she’s usually going to defecate or “poop”, which comes out the back end.