A few days ago my daughter sent me a link she had come across on a site that was featuring Molly the barn owl who was sitting on five eggs. Carlos and Donna Royal are the owners of the owl house on their property in San Marcos, California.

Molly is a beautiful owl. Her mate, McGee, hunts in nearby fields and bring her food several times a day. Her menu ranges from rodents to rabbits. This has truly been an amazing experience watching her diligently sitting on the eggs and waiting for them to hatch.

People from all over the world (over 20 countries) have found Molly’s world. She is truly a world famous owl. Today I have seen the number of visitors go over 13,000 to the site. At one point there were so many visitors that Carlos had problems with the web cam.

Here is a description of facts about the barn owl.

• They range in size from 13 to 20 inches
• They weigh 8 to 21 ounces
• They have a wingspan of about 3-1/2 feet
• They do not migrate
• Their habitat is in farmlands, marshes, prairie, and desert locations
• Barn owls have the sharpest sense of hearing of any bird in the world

In appearance, the barn own differs from other owls and is characterized by its heart-shaped face and small black eyes. The round shape of their faces amplifies sounds, while its silent flight helps to keep the background noise to a minimum allowing their ears to search out their prey. It has been documented that the owl’s ears are not symmetrical on the head. The left side is higher on the skull than the right. This makes the sound traveling from above or below to arrive at one ear before the other, which allows the owl to know which direction the sound is coming from. The Barn Owl has three-dimensional hearing. With its keen sense of hearing, the barn owl can catch food in total darkness.

Although its name, “barn owl” denotes that it lives in barns, this owl can also be found residing in churches, natural sites, such as caves and tree holes and other buildings.

Owls eat their food whole. They do not have teeth and cannot chew their food. They rip their prey apart and they swallow large chunks whole. This food goes from their mouth to their gizzard. The gizzard uses sand particles, gravel and digestive fluids to grind and dissolve parts of the food that can be digested. After the various parts of the food has been broken down by the owl’s gizzard and intestines, the teeth, claws, bones, fur and other indigestible parts of the owl’s prey are compacted in the owl’s gizzard into a neat mass which is better known as an owl pellet. Baby owl’s do not produce owl pellets until they begin eating their prey whole.

An owl pellet is usually formed after a few hours of eating. This pellet will remain in the body for several hours. The pellet is stored in the proventriculus part of the owl’s body for up to 20 hours. The owl will not be able to eat again until this pellet is disgorged as it blocks the entrance to the digestive system. Molly at one point was regurgitating an owl pellet. It appeared that she was coughing or choking. The actual process is when the esophagus spasms forcing the owl pellet out. The owl pellet is soft at this point and does not cause the owl any pain. This regurgitation process can take anywhere from a few seconds to two or three minutes.

The barn owl does not build a traditional nest. The female lays 4 to 7 eggs right on the floor, usually among old owl pellets. The eggs will hatch after about 30 days. Molly has been a diligent mother sitting on her eggs. She gets up from time to time to stretch her legs and eat whatever prey McGee has brought to her. Carlos comes on throughout the day and evening giving viewers updates on Molly. He mentioned at one point that he has seen Molly leave the owl house once or twice after dark.

The owlets fledge 7 to 10 weeks after hatching but do not usually leave the area until the are 3 to 5 months old.

The breeding pair may lay a second clutch of eggs after the young leave the area. A barn owl is capable of reproduction at less than a year of age.

Recent studies have shown that males prefer to breed with females with plenty of spots on their thighs. This is a unique feature that indicates a bird’s good health!

Written by Judy Conway