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What is a Flammulated Owl?

By J.M. Densing
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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A flammulated owl is a tiny, dark eyed owl that is found primarily in western North America and Central America. Its scientific name is Otus Flammeolus, and it is also commonly called the flammulated screech owl or the flammulated scops owl. It is the smallest known species of owl with ears, and like most owls it is nocturnal. Its diet consists mainly of small invertebrates. The flammulated owl usually mates for life.

This owl is similar in size to the pygmy owl, but it weighs less, making it the smallest known species of eared owl. It commonly grows to a length of 6 to 7 inches (15 to 18 cm) with a wingspan of 14 to 19 inches (36 to 48 cm), and weighs just 1.6 to 2.2 ounces (45 to 63 g). It is the only small owl species to have dark brown eyes, and it has a hooked beak. It is usually grey or brown with a light colored face with darker stripes, and stripe patterns or speckling over much of its body.

The primary habitat of the flammulated owl is the forest, especially in mountainous areas with high concentrations of pine trees. Its native area spreads from southern British Columbia through the western U.S. to Mexico. It migrates in the winter from the northern parts of its range where it breeds, and can be found year round in areas with warmer climates.

The diet of the flammulated owl consists mainly of small invertebrates like beetles, moths, crickets, spiders, centipedes, and caterpillars. On rare occasions it will eat small rodents like shrews. The flammulated owl is nocturnal by nature, foraging and hunting during the night, particularly during dawn and dusk. It usually rests during the day. It is believed to catch prey in mid-air and to forage for food on the forest floor as well.

The call of the flammulated owl is a soft "boop, boop" that begins and ends in a gradual way, making it difficult to hear. There is usually a short break of about two seconds between notes, and both usually have the same tone. It appears to adjust its call to an even lower volume when it knows there are humans nearby.

Monogamous in nature, the flammulated owl mates for life until the death of its partner. The surviving owl will often re-partner with a new mate. They nest in holes in trees from woodpeckers or natural occurring cavities, and they seldom line their nest with any other materials. The female usually lays two to four white or cream colored eggs and incubates them for 21 to 24 days while the male brings her food. When the babies hatch, they remain in the nest for about three weeks, cared for by both parents. They are usually able to live independently at approximately five weeks of age and have a lifespan of about eight years.

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Discussion Comments
By watson42 — On Dec 18, 2010

@recapitulate, I agree, these animals seem very free and self-reliant. I personally am most interested by just how many different kinds of owls there are, and how most people don't know much about any species other than the snowy owl or the great grey owl. Yes, those large types are the archetype, but there are many varieties.

By recapitulate — On Dec 17, 2010

Unlike many other small birds, it is interesting that these flammulated owls seem to be very independent. In particular, being able to survive by themselves at about five weeks of age is pretty remarkable to me. Cinsidering how dependent most mammals are when they are born, and for how long, birds, especially ones like owls, are much more sel-sufficient.

By anon134039 — On Dec 13, 2010

I love these birds. they are symbols of wisdom, and i loved i could understand almost all the text with my english knowledge!

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