Otus flammeolusflammulated owl

Geographic Range

Flammulated owls breed in aspen, ponderosa, and Jeffrey Pines. They winter in central and south Mexico, as far south as Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.


The Flammulated owl is generally associated with montane forested habitats often with brushy understory. This owl may also occur in forests with mixes of oak, Douglas Fir, white fir, incense cedar, or sugar pine.

Physical Description

Flammulated owls are 6 inches (17cm) in length with a wingspan of 14 inches. They have big, round heads with large dark brown eyes. The ear tufts are small. Their bill is gray or blue. There are two color morphs of this species. Birds in the Great Basin mountains are grayish and have the coarsest markings; those in the southeast are reddish. The ventral side of both morphs generally tend to be blotched with gray, black, and reddish-brown. The dorsal side of the gray morph is mainly gray with reddish-brown on the back of the neck, and on the retrices and remiges. The dorsal side of the red morph is reddish-brown. A key field mark of this species is the streak of reddish feathers along the shoulder and onto the back. This "flaming" streak is what gives this bird its Latin and common name. The young tend to have a gray upperbody and a dull white or grayish-white underbody that is barred with a grayish-rust color.

There is no sexual dimorphism between the sexes. The sexes are alike in appearance although the male and female can be distinguished by call, as the female has a higher pitched whining call.

  • Range mass
    50 to 65 g
    1.76 to 2.29 oz


Flammulated owls are cavity nesters. Most nest sites are in woodpecker holes or natural tree cavities. They lay their eggs from about mid-April through the beginning of July. Generally 1-5 eggs are laid, depending on the variations in the weather.

The eggs are incubated for 21 to 24 days, and can hatch anywhere from early June to the end of July. The young become independent in 25-32 days. The young fledge at 30-35 days, staying within about 100 yards of the nest site.

  • Average eggs per season



Otus flammeolus are small, nocturnal owls. They are believed to be one of the most migratory owls in North America. Populations begin autumn migration in August or early September. Otus flammeolus tends to be monogamous.

There is no evidence of "divorce, but an individual may get a new mate if a mate is lost during the winter. Maximum longevity in the wild is about 7-8 years.

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

Otus flammeolus are insectivores. They feed on insects, moths, beetles, and crickets. Flammulated owls are predators that sit on a perch and pounce on their prey. They hunt at night, mainly at dusk or dawn, by visually locating prey from their perch, then flying to capture it in the air or pick it off needles, branches or the ground.

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Flammulated owls keep the population of insects down. Thus they may provide pest control.

Conservation Status

Flammulated owls are losing their habitat as a result of the human need for wood. This in turn makes it difficult for them to find a nesting site, and it also makes it hard to hide from predators. Timber harvesting in older Douglas-fir and ponderosa pine forests has the single greatest impact on Flammulated Owl breeding habitat in British Columbia by affecting cavity and prey availability. Firewood cutting and removal of "danger trees" can also reduce the availability of nest trees.


Nicole Strawder (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Terry Root (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.



living in the southern part of the New World. In other words, Central and South America.

World Map


uses sound to communicate

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.


forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.


offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).


having the capacity to move from one place to another.


This terrestrial biome includes summits of high mountains, either without vegetation or covered by low, tundra-like vegetation.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


uses touch to communicate


uses sight to communicate


Cannings, R. 1982. General notes - A Flammulated Owl Nests in a Nest Box. The Murrelet, 6(2): 66-68.

Dickinson, M., L. Rosbotham, C. Mehler, M. Herring-Dale, C. Gillian. 1989. Field Guide to the Birds of North America. National Geographic Society. Washington D.C:

Ditch, R. 1997. "Arizona Special Species: Flammulated Owl" (On-line). Accessed November 2, 2000 at http://www.thegrid.net/dan100/Flamm_nh.htm.

McCallum, D. 1994. Review of Technical Knowledge: Flammulated Owls. Pp. "14-16" in G Hayward, J Verner, eds. Flammulated, Boreal and Great Gray Owls in the United States: a Technical Conservation Assessment.. Fort Collins Co..

Reynolds, R. 1998. Raptors of Arizona. Tucson, AZ: University of Tucson Press.

Robbins, C., B. Bruun, H. Zim. 1966. Birds of North America. New York: Western Publishing Company.